April 11th, 2013

Inspiration

Rebuttal to the attack on Dr. Don Easterbrook | Watts Up With That?

Rebuttal to the attack on Dr. Don Easterbrook | Watts Up With That?

The WWU geology faculty letter asserted that technological advances arise from application of the scientific method. They claimed that airplanes were invented by scientists. But the Wright brothers were bicycle mechanics–not scientists. The modern age of personal computing began in a suburban California garage in 1976. The most significant technological advance in human history was the Industrial Revolution in Britain that occurred from 1760 through 1830. When Adam Smith toured factories and inquired as to who had invented the new machinery, the answer was always the same: the common workman. Antibiotics were not discovered through the rigorous application of scientific methodology but serendipitously when Fleming noticed in 1928 that mold suppressed bacterial growth.
Inspiration

Doing statistics without knowing what the numbers mean

Best of the Web Today: Talk Talk - WSJ.com

The researchers committed the logical fallacy known as cum hoc ergo propter hoc--in English, mistaking correlation for causation. "They argued," Rosenberg reports, "that the disparities in word usage correlated so closely with academic success that kids born to families on welfare do worse than professional-class children entirely because their parents talk to them less."

In fact, all they did was show a correlation among three observed variables: parental loquaciousness at age 3, IQ at age 9, and school performance in the intervening years. They simply assumed the variable that interested them was the causal factor and that it could be engineered, like turning a dial on a machine, to produce smarter and more accomplished children: "In other words," as Rosenberg puts it, "if everyone talked to their young children the same amount, there would be no racial or socioeconomic gap at all."



Sadly, they forgot to test for parental IQ: maybe that actually drove the whole experiment. Causal tests are more complex than they bothered with.