The Trent Experimental Society (TES) has conducted a study to answer the fiercely debated topic of which major at Trent University has the smartest students. The study consisted of a surveyed filled-out by almost 200 Trent University students who reported their major and then completed an intelligence quotient (IQ) test. The results are in, and the highest scoring IQ major was… Canadian Studies! In a close second were Psychology majors, followed by a third-place tie between Archeology and Indigenous Studies majors. Finally, a debate 50 years in the making (as old as the school itself) is brought to an end. We now know the smartest major at Trent University; all hail the glorious geniuses of the Canadian Studies program! Or should we say: genius*
Genius? Yes, singular. Our data indicated that only one person from the Canadian Studies program filled out our survey and, while likely quite clever, that person’s IQ score represented all Canadian Studies students in our analysis. Now, you might say, “that’s just dumb”, and you would be right. However, our collected data was normally distributed and scientifically valid in regards to sample size as well as the typically employed margin of error (p <.05, response distribution = 12%). Technically, of course, that one response from the Canadian Studies major would have been considered an outlier, but not one worthy of omission from our data since it neither significantly altered our distribution nor violated any statistical assumptions. It is therefore to the discretion of the researcher to decide whether or not to report such statistics (or even identify them as outliers), and therein lies our exploitation of the great logical fallacy: science is objective. Numbers and statistics might be our gold standard for measuring objectivity, but science is about the interpretation of those numbers, and interpretations of such are an inherently human, and therefore subjective, endeavour.
Other notable limitations which could have as easily gone unmentioned but were nevertheless impactful in our study were biases in sampling (Google the snowball technique) and the violation of virtually every type of validity when it came to measuring the construct of intelligence (i.e., using a short internet IQ test). But what if we ended this article after the first paragraph? Would you have believed our results? Regardless of your response, we can likely agree that at least some people would certainly take such media proclamations to heart, often in support of their already preconceived prejudices and animosities towards out-groups. The ultimate aim of the study, and indeed this consequent article, had always been to demonstrate first-hand the erroneous tendency for people to place a great deal of misguided trust in anything accompanied with the word “science” (we chose the headline of this article carefully). Science possesses the danger of acquiring a dogmatic overtone… if we don’t collectively understand that it is a human construct which ultimately relies upon entirely subjective human logic and reason.
If you would like to know more about the Trent Experimental Society, please contact its president ([email protected]) for more information.