First Annual Bad Science Award!

The valuable award.
The valuable award.

This post is one that has been restored after the hacking. All original comments were lost.


In the proud and rarely abused tradition of Honoring Important People, we present the First Annual Bad Science Award! Please help us pass on the news of this momentous distinction by Tweeting, Facebooking, Emailing, Phoning and the like. Alert reporters! Notes in bottles would not be out of place, where this not a gross affront to The Environment.

The winner receives our humble thanks and a copy of the valuable coin-like image above (should they choose to log on to the site and download one). Looks just like the Nobel, eh? Eh?


Only researchers who published peer-reviewed papers in journals of good standing were considered. Mere mistakes weren’t enough, nor banality; nor was fraud of any kind a qualification. Cheaters are considered comedians who do us an essential kind of service, unlike Bad Scientists, who are inherently harmful.

The Bad Science Award—or WBSA, as it will soon come to be known—can only be bestowed on researchers who were in earnest, whose results were excruciating, results which could or did serve as a focal point for the propagation or base of error for other scientists or which did or will cause an increase in Sinful Scientism. We’re talking smelly.


Culled from a list of hundreds, here were 2014’s Bottom Performers:

Please hold your applause until the end…

  • Andrea Spence, Marie-Claude Rousseau, and Marie-Élise Parent for discovering that sex with 21, but not 20, women lowers prostate cancer risk (detailed entry);
  • Lisa M. McKenzie, Ruixin Guo, Roxana Z. Witter, David A. Savitz, Lee S. Newman, and John L. Adgate for their suggestion that fracking might maybe hey-you-never-know cause low-birth-weight babies, with special reliance on the epidemiologist fallacy (detailed entry);
  • Kathleen H. Corriveau, Eva E. Chen, and Paul L. Harris for their work in belaboring the obvious about how children read stories, and then turning that obvious inside out and pummeling it silly (detailed entry);
  • Woo-Young Ahn, Kenneth T. Kishida, Xiaosi Gu, Terry Lohrenz, Ann Harvey, John R. Alford, Kevin B. Smith, Gideon Yaffe, John R. Hibbing, Peter Dayan, P. Read Montague in their efforts to show, as so many seek to show, that the brains of “conservatives” are different than the brains of “liberals” (detailed entry);
  • Rose McDermott, Dustin Tingley, and Peter K. Hatemi for claiming that “conservatives” smell different than “liberals” (detailed entry).

Drum roll…

The Grand Winner

You knew it!

Kathleen H. Corriveau, Eva E. Chen, and Paul L. Harris take the laurels in a romp, in an effort our judges (me) called pure putrescence, for their “Judgments About Fact and Fiction by Children From Religious and Nonreligious Backgrounds” in the peer-reviewed journal Cognitive Science (2014, pp. 1–30).

Let’s all give them a big hand.

It was clear from the first sentences of their paper that Corriveau et alia were the team to beat. “Children often learn about people such as Cinderella, Tom Sawyer, George Washington, and Rosa Parks in the context of a narrative. However, these protagonists vary in their status.” From that vapid beginning, our winners derived this important insight: “When hearing a story about an unfamiliar protagonist, [children] use the nature of the events in the narrative as a clue to the protagonist’s status.”

Who knew!

Our winners were only warming up. It wasn’t just obviousness packaged as New Science that propelled them boldly into the waiting arms of the WBSA. No, sir. Corriveau also “discovered” that Christian children raised religiously were more likely than children raised irreligiously to believe miraculous Biblical stories happened.

This is still Captain Obvious Land (which is the land where Capt. Obvious lives). To secure the laurels, Carriveau still needed that sublime slip into stupidity—and found it in this sentence: “It is possible that religious teaching, especially exposure to miracle stories, leads children to a more generic receptivity toward the impossible, that is, a more wide-ranging acceptance that the impossible can happen in defiance of ordinary causal regularities.”

Religion as pathology, or something like it! A sure-fire path to the WBSA every time.

Congratulations to our winners and a hearty thanks for providing us with a smile.

Next Year’s Ceremony

It’s never too early to send in those nominations for the 2015 award. Rumor has it Michael Mann is being considered for the lifetime achievement award. When Stephen “I Faked The Moon Landing” Lewandowsky heard this he is reported to have said, “Not if I have anything to do with it.”


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