Is science a pyramid or a circle?

These images appear in Scott Alexander’s blog post “The control group is out of control.” (By the way, props to Cliff for bringing Alexander’s important post to our attention.) Back to Alexander’s post. He writes (the last ellipsis is in the original):

The highest level of the Pyramid of Scientific Evidence is meta-analysis. But a lot of meta-analyses are crap * * * How do I know it’s crap? Well, I use my personal judgment. How do I know my personal judgment is right? Well, a smart well-credentialed person like James Coyne agrees with me. How do I know James Coyne is smart? I can think of lots of cases where he’s been right before. How do I know those count? Well, John Ioannides has published a lot of studies analyzing the problems with science, and confirmed that cases like the ones Coyne talks about are pretty common. Why can I believe Ioannides’ studies? Well, there have been good meta-analyses of them. But how do I know if those meta-analyses are crap or not? Well…

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