Seth Roberts, a professor emeritus of psychology from UC Berkeley and a self-experimenter, discusses three popular sayings about data.
"Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence." Ã˜yhus explains why this is wrong. That such an Orwellian saying is popular in discussions of data suggests there are many ways we push away inconvenient data.
"Correlation does not equal causation." In practice, this is used to mean that correlation is not evidence for causation. At UC Berkeley, a job candidate for a faculty position in psychology said this to me. I said, "Isn't zero correlation evidence against causation?" She looked puzzled.
"The plural of anecdote is not data." How dare you try to learn from stories you are told or what you yourself observe!
Orwell was right. People use these sayings -- especially #1 and #3 -- to push away data that contradicts this or that approved view of the world. Without any data at all, the world would be simpler: We would simply believe what authorities tell us. Data complicates things. These sayings help those who say them ignore data, thus restoring comforting certainty.
Preventive Stupidity Exists
I have offered plenty of advice on caring for your cast iron cookware. Stop seasoning it in the house, use your BBQ. Seasoning this stuff in the oven (my favorite old way,) or on the stove smokes your house up. Just throw the shit on the grill. Super thinly put a coat of oil on […]
One of the major contributors to greenhouse gases is the methane that cows belch up as they break down cellulose, but five years ago, research from Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) found that adding small amounts of a pink seaweed called Asparagopsis to cows' diets eliminated the gut microbes responsible for methane […]
On Slate Star Codex (previously), Scott Alexander breaks down Invisible Designers: Brain Evolution Through the Lens of Parasite Manipulation, Marco Del Giudice's Quarterly Review of Biology paper that examines the measures that parasites take to influence their hosts' behaviors, and the countermeasures that hosts evolve to combat them.
Are we done with capsule coffee makers yet? Sure, they’re easy. But they are not so easy on the environment, and it’s debatable whether they actually make a better cup. Luckily, there’s never been a better time to switch back to the good old reliable drip method – especially when drip coffeemakers have quietly been […]
If there’s one thing that stayed consistent through the last decade or so of tech industry turmoil, it’s the love affair between techies and Linux. There’s just a ton you can do with the OS, and its open-source format means you can customize your rig from the ground up. Apparently not content with that level […]
Accidents happen. And when they do, you’re going to want a dash cam for a second pair of eyes. At the minimum, a decent dash cam can save you vast sums of time and money in case of an accident. But a really good dash cam can do a whole lot more. Here are six […]