Standards of evidence

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Yesterday's SMBC starts this way:

The punch line:

The mouseover title: "I totally agree with you, Zach. And that's how I know the moon landing was fake."

And the aftercomic:


  1. gribley said,

    May 11, 2016 @ 8:32 am

    As usual, SMBC is altogether too accurate. See: Information Quality Act.

  2. Mark P said,

    May 12, 2016 @ 8:44 am

    This seems to be about the social sciences. Is there an implication that the problem is worse in that area, or do most people simply not know enough about other areas of science to understand the way research is done in those areas?

  3. KeithB said,

    May 12, 2016 @ 8:54 am

    Mark P:
    Social Science, and politicians and quackademic medicine and creationists and ….

  4. Mark Liberman said,

    May 12, 2016 @ 9:49 am

    A more sympathetic account of this attitude is expressed in the adage "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence". Or more broadly, in a Bayesian approach to reasoning under uncertainty, in which estimation of prior probabilities plays a role.

    But Bayesianoid reasoning where the priors are subjective prejudices — or personal financial or career interests — can be found in many fields…]

  5. RachelP said,

    May 12, 2016 @ 10:00 am

    'Bayesianoid' now there's an interesting coinage. Wouldn't using 'Bayesian' again have done? Does "-oid" now convey a sense of an erstaz version of something?

  6. Ethan said,

    May 12, 2016 @ 10:50 am

    @RachelP: Didn't "-oid" always have the basic meaning "looks like but isn't really"? It may be that the usage is more frequent in technical terminology. Consider humanoid and android (looks human but isn't), peptoid (mimics biological properties of a peptide but is chemically different), planetoid (orbits the sun but doesn't quite make the cut to be called a planet). Recent news stories are popularizing the label "opioid" for synthetic drugs that have opium-like effects. And don't forget "factoid".

  7. BZ said,

    May 12, 2016 @ 12:12 pm

    I think that's an oversimplification. First of all, factoid has two meanings, the other of which is a fact of little importance. Second, I'm pretty sure that opium is itself an opioid, making it a category. And what about aneroid? Does it only resemble not having water? In what way does a meteoroid resemble a meteor more than an asteroid or comet does? Finally, how productive is this suffix and what meaning does it have in contemporary coinages? Your examples (as well as mine for that matter) are either old or scientific.

  8. RachelP said,

    May 12, 2016 @ 12:42 pm

    Maybe just a recency illusion on my part, but I was especially noting that Mark started with an adjective and added '-oid' to make another. There are probably other examples of that but none seem that common, so it could be a new type of coinage, to me at least. Or, you know, newoid. Is it like -ish?

  9. Ethan said,

    May 12, 2016 @ 1:31 pm

    @BZ: "-oid" has a separate scientific use to label categories or phylogentic subdivisions, but I don't think that explains "opioid". It is a back-formation from "opiod receptor", which was so named because it recognized opium itself but also things that mimic opium.

    "how productive is this suffix and what meaning does it have in contemporary coinages?" My fallible perception is that the most common productive use is XXXoid based on "android" as a slur to convey robot-like adherence to a cause or leader. Thus "An important Obamoid boxtop who cannot be bothered to give his name", or Creation of the Reganoids.

    But other examples attach "-oid" to the thing itself to indicate falsity. Here is a 2013 opinion piece refering to Ted Cruz as "Cruzoid" to highlight perceived hypocrisy. E.g. "He doesn't believe what he says but he needs to demagogue somewhere about something."

    Certainly no examples come to mind that use "-oid" to attach a positive rather than negative connotation.

  10. Jason said,

    May 12, 2016 @ 10:59 pm

    -oid suffix from the OED:

    Chiefly in Science. Forming adjectives with the sense 'having the form or nature of, resembling, allied to', and nouns with the sense 'something having the form or appearance of, something related or allied in structure, but not identical'; spec. (a) (in Math.) forming the names of curves, figures, and solids, as ellipsoid n., hyperboloid n.; (b) (in Zool.) forming nouns and adjectives with the sense '(a member) of a specified family, superfamily, suborder, order, class, or similarly marked taxon with a name ending in -oidea, -oidei, or -oidae', as meloid n. and adj.; cercopithecoid adj. at cercopithecus n. Derivatives, vespoid adj.; gobioid adj. and n., lemuroid adj. and n., scorpaenoid adj. and n. at Scorpaena n. Derivatives; ammonoid n., hyracoid adj.; blastoid adj. and n., echinoid adj. and n. also in non-technical contexts, forming adjectives and nouns with depreciative force, as bungaloid adj., factoid n. and adj.

  11. stephen said,

    May 13, 2016 @ 12:40 am

    Star Trek the next generation had the ships counselor, a Betazoid from the planet Betazed.

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