Category: Charlton Week

NCBI ROFL: Grad student motivation: Solved.

By ncbi rofl | December 11, 2009 4:00 pm

Stimulating revolutionary science with mega-cash prizes.

“We argue that the most ambitious science is intrinsically riskier science, more likely to fail. It is almost always a safer career strategy for the best scientists to seek to extend knowledge more modestly and to build incrementally on existing ideas and methods. Therefore, higher rewards for success are a necessary incentive to encourage top scientists to work on the most important scientific problems, ones where the solution has potentially revolutionary implications. We suggest that mega-cash prizes (measured in tens of millions of dollars) are a suitable reward for those individuals (or institutions) whose work has triggered radically new directions in science.”

As a bonus, here’s a list of more awesome Charlton titles that we didn’t have the space to include this week:

Why are women so intelligent? The effect of maternal IQ on childhood mortality may be a relevant evolutionary factor.

Clever sillies: why high IQ people tend to be deficient in common sense.

Knowledge first, critique later: Why it is a mistake for science education to encourage junior students to discuss, challenge and debate scientific knowledge.

Why it is ‘better’ to be reliable but dumb than smart but slapdash: are intelligence (IQ) and Conscientiousness best regarded as gifts or virtues.

Are you an honest scientist? Truthfulness in science should be an iron law, not a vague aspiration.

Medical Hypotheses 2006 impact factor rises to 1.3–a vindication of the ‘editorial review’ system for revolutionary science.

Thanks to Bruce for today’s ROFL!


NCBI ROFL: Education: Solved.

By ncbi rofl | December 10, 2009 4:00 pm

Replacing education with psychometrics: how learning about IQ almost-completely changed my mind about education.

“I myself am a prime example of the way in which ignorance of IQ leads to a distorted understanding of education (and many other matters). I have been writing on the subject of education–especially higher education, science and medical education–for about 20 years, but now believe that many of my earlier ideas were wrong for the simple reason that I did not know about IQ… Since IQ and personality are substantially hereditary and rankings (although not absolute levels) are highly stable throughout a persons adult life, this implies that differential educational attainment within a society is mostly determined by heredity and therefore not by differences in educational experience. This implies that education is about selection more than enhancement, and educational qualifications mainly serve to ‘signal’ or quantify a person’s hereditary attributes. So education mostly functions as an extremely slow, inefficient and imprecise form of psychometric testing. It would therefore be easy to construct a modern educational system that was both more efficient and more effective than the current one. I now advocate a substantial reduction in the average amount of formal education and the proportion of the population attending higher education institutions. At the age of about sixteen each person could leave school with a set of knowledge-based examination results demonstrating their level of competence in a core knowledge curriculum; and with usefully precise and valid psychometric measurements of their general intelligence and personality (especially their age ranked degree of Conscientiousness). However, such change would result in a massive down-sizing of the educational system and this is a key underlying reason why IQ has become a taboo subject. Miller suggests that academics at the most expensive, elite, intelligence-screening universities tend to be sceptical of psychometric testing; precisely because they do not want to be undercut by cheaper, faster, more-reliable IQ and personality evaluations.”

Thanks to Bruce for today’s ROFL!


NCBI ROFL: Science vs. Religion: Solved.

By ncbi rofl | December 9, 2009 4:00 pm

Despite their inevitable conflicts–science, religion and New Age spirituality are essentially compatible and complementary activities.

“Until recently it seemed that the continued expansion of scientific ways of thinking was destined to render religion extinct and spirituality unfeasible. But the example of the United States disproves this, since America is the most successful scientific nation of this era, church-going remains strong and New Age spiritualities are thriving. Therefore, despite the obvious conflicts; science, religion and spirituality are essentially compatible. Future science will continue to win territory from religion since its validation procedures are more objective and reliable. However, churches can survive and grow by dropping those aspects of doctrine which clash with science, and expanding their social functions. The fast-growing US ‘mega-church’ movement shows the way – since these organizations are minimally dogmatic but instead provide a family-orientated and morally-cohesive social milieu. Like organized religion, New Age spirituality comes into conflict with science when it makes incredible or bizarre factual claims. However, in practice modern spirituality is based on subjective evaluations which do not clash with the procedures of science. Indeed, the reliance upon individual, emotion-based evaluations (e.g., ‘my truth’, ‘whatever works for you’) renders New Age spirituality ‘science-proof’, and has enabled it to expand massively in an age of science. Science, religion and spirituality perform different functions in the modern world, and their relationship is therefore one of mutual-dependence. Borderline disputes will inevitably occur, but as part of a broader context of complementarity. Science, ‘social’ churches and New Age spirituality all have a bright future.”

Thanks to Bruce for today’s ROFL!


NCBI ROFL: Time: Solved.

By ncbi rofl | December 8, 2009 4:00 pm

Scientific life should be measured in seven year units.

“Traditional wisdom and empirical observation unite in recommending a 7 year unit for measuring human life – including individual and institutional science. But, because of astronomy and the decimal system, things tend to be measured either in years, five years or in decades. A year is too short while a decade is too long to measure the trends and transitions of individual or institutional life. And the half decade, such as the ‘five year plan’ beloved by politicians and bureaucrats seems too short. Therefore, seven years should become the standard unit for tracking trends and measuring attainment. Precedents for using a seven year unit include the notorious Jesuit saying: ‘Give me the child until he is seven, and I will show you the man’; and the ‘ninth commandment’ of Leo Szilard: ‘Do your work for six years; but in the seventh, go into solitude or among strangers, so that the memory of your friends does not prevent you from being what you have become’. In a scientific career, seven years is approximately the time spent at high school, the time taken for a traditional basic scientific training of first degree and doctorate, and the period after the doctorate building the knowledge to become an expert specialist. There seems to be enough anecdotal evidence to support the idea that we should reconsider the universal but un-reflective use of decimal units in planning and evaluation. For instance, seven year fellowships and program grants might replace the current five year versions. A new – and previously unconsidered – field of research beckons.”

Also, in case you missed his comment on our post from yesterday, Bruce loves us too:

“What an excellent idea! If only all bloggers shared your enthusiasm – ahem.

Anyway, for what it’s worth, you have my blessing

(holds out large jewelled ring to be kissed…)

Bruce G Charlton”


NCBI ROFL: Atheism: Solved.

By ncbi rofl | December 7, 2009 4:00 pm

Genospirituality: genetic engineering for spiritual and religious enhancement.

“The most frequently discussed role for genetic engineering is in relation to medicine, and a second area which provokes discussion is the use of genetic engineering as an enhancement technology. But one neglected area is the potential use of genetic engineering to increase human spiritual and religious experience – or genospirituality. If technologies are devised which can conveniently and safely engineer genes causal of spiritual and religious behaviours, then people may become able to choose their degree of religiosity or spiritual sensitivity. For instance, it may become possible to increase the likelihood of direct religious experience – i.e. ‘revelation’: the subjective experience of communication from the deity. Or, people may be able to engineer ‘animistic’ thinking, a mode of cognition in which the significant features of the world – such as large animals, trees, distinctive landscape features – are regarded as sentient and intentional beings; so that the individual experiences a personal relationship with the world. Another potentially popular spiritual ability would probably be shamanism; in which states of altered consciousness (e.g. trances, delirium or dreams) are induced and the shaman may undergo the experience of transformations, ‘soul journeys’ and contact with a spirit realm. Ideally, shamanistic consciousness could be modulated such that trances were self-induced only when wanted and when it was safe and convenient; and then switched-off again completely when full alertness and concentration are necessary. It seems likely that there will be trade-offs for increased spirituality; such as people becoming less ‘driven’ to seek status and monetary rewards – as a result of being more spiritually fulfilled people might work less hard and take more leisure. On the other hand, it is also possible that highly moral, altruistic, peaceable and principled behaviours might become more prevalent; and the energy and joyousness of the best churches might spread and be strengthened. Overall, genospirituality would probably be used by people who were unable to have the kind of spiritual or religious experiences which they wanted (or perhaps even needed) in order to lead the kind of life to which they aspired.”

Thanks to Bruce for today’s ROFL!


NCBI ROFL: It's Charlton week on NCBI ROFL!

By ncbi rofl | December 7, 2009 3:00 pm

We love Bruce G. Charlton. His official title at the University of Buckingham is “Professor of Theoretical Medicine.” He’s got 164 articles in PubMed, many of which have awesome titles like “Why are modern scientists so dull? How science selects for perseverance and sociability at the expense of intelligence and creativity.” Of those 164 articles, 62 are in the journal Medical Hypotheses. Oh, did we mention he’s the editor-in-chief of that journal? Yeah, he is.
This guy’s got stuff figured out. So this week is Charlton week on NCBI ROFL, and we’ll be featuring some of his very best work. Enjoy!

~Mer & The Brontosaurus

p.s. Can’t get enough of Charlton? He’s got five–count ’em, FIVE–blogs:


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