Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi

Olim lacus colueram,	
olim pulcher extiteram, dum cignus ego fueram. Actually this is a post about statistics, but what the hell I’ve been listening to Carmina Burana a lot recently, even if Miriam thinks it is bombastic. So anyway, several people have commented on this article which (whilst it makes some points about statistics that are vaguely plausible) far far overgeneralises its bounds of validity: any single scientific study alone is quite likely to be incorrect, thanks largely to the fact that the standard statistical system for drawing conclusions is, in essence, illogical. Tamino points out the obvious: that statistics works, and it isn’t stats faults if you don’t understand it. JA says similar, though unusually for him is quite kind about it. Even Paul linked to it. And this post merely expands my comment there.

Which is: that much of science isn’t statistical at all. A simple example would be special relativity. You can read the underlying paper; there are no stats in it. You could sort-of argue that there is some stats underlying it (that the speed of light is a constant is sort-of a matter of observation, which always come with errors, so need stats to analyse properly) but that isn’t really true. The sciencenews thing itself seems to be mostly thinking about medicine, where they use stats a lot because they don’t know what is really going on.