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Is the Replication Crisis a Problem for Progressivism?

One way to understand the differences between these three ideologies is to contrast their preferred methods for decisionmaking.  Libertarians generally favor decisions to be made through the free market.  Conservatives generally prefer following traditional practices.  And progressives generally favor following expert decisions made by government agencies supported by peer reviewed studies.

Each group has strong arguments for their preferred decisionmaking method.  The free market is a powerful mechanism that both coordinates the division of information and provides strong incentives for individuals to take the right actions. Traditional practices have been supported by the test of time in a complicated world where it is often hard to determine what are the best actions in the long run given the complexity of the social world.  And expert knowledge, supported by peer reviewed studies, appears to have the force of science behind it.

Of course, all of these mechanisms have problems.  The question is how effective they are as compared to one another.

It is significant, then, that there is a replication crisis occurring in peer reviewed studies.  Leading studies in various fields do not replicate.  It is not merely social psychology studies that don’t replicate.  A significant number of medical studies have not replicated.  And the more one reads, the more people acknowledge some of the problems – see here on replication in economics.  And see here on the “scientific” support for parapsychology.  Given that the same methods are generally employed in the various fields, I would be surprised if the replication crisis does not spread.

This is not merely an example of poor practices or corruption in the natural and social sciences.  It is also a strong indictment of employing peer reviewed studies, at least in certain fields.  If this replication crisis continues to expand, it presents a serious problem for progressivism.

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