Thursday, January 17, 2008

I shall scream, Bumble-Wumble! --

...If I see one more study that purports to tell us the causes of "x" on the basis of some prima facie silly instrument. So autism is caused by TV-watching, eg, since it is correlated with rainy weather.

I'm not an econometrician (nor do I play one on TV) but the naivete with which these guys trumpet their ability to sort causation from correlation on the basis of a statistical technique is mind-boggling. David Hume, call your office!

7 comments:

Jonathan Versen said...

I thought everybody knew autism was caused by watching tv.

YouNotSneaky! said...

Autism causes you to watch TV?

rosserjb@jmu.edu said...

Playing one on TV is one thing. Playing one in the classroom and the journals is quite another, :-).

Barkley

Jack said...

"David Hume call your office."
Prof. Galton is on the line and would like to discuss with you his latest findings concerning the propensity of the Jews in London to occupy the lowest ranks of the social and economy order there. He seems to have concluded on that basis that they must certainly be less intelligent as a race of people. Dr. Galton seems to be of the opinion that some new measure that he has devised, he refers to it as "a regression of scores," provides ample evidence of an undeniable relationship with the low social standing of those Jews and their innate intellectual inferiority. Galton seems certain that this "correlation" measure, as he calls it, will provide a sound statistical basis for a new form of study referred to as eugenics. Hume, do you think there is any basis for Galton's certainty in this regard? He notes that his cousin, Mr. Darwin, is very supportive of these ideas, but I have a nagging uncertainty that simply showing that two events coincide in some manner assures us that one causes the other. You may also note that there is a brilliant young man under Galton's wing, Karl Pearson I believe is his name, who seems equally impressed by these ideas. What are your thoughts?

Bruce Webb said...

Jack as a piece of irony this is okay. But for anyone interested it really doesn't reflect the actual historical situation of Jews in London at the time.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/masterpiece/deronda/ei_judaism.html

Or in an interesting example here is Charles Dickens' description from A Dictionary of Victorian London.
http://www.victorianlondon.org/dickens/dickens-j.htm
(I love his reference to "cosher" food, complete with scare quotes)

Jack said...

Bruce, I can't find the reference and I can't remember the psychologist who wrote it, but it was a description of Galton's "findings" concerning the intellect of the Jews at the time. It was part of a critique of Herrnstein's conclusions. The critic was out of either UC Berkley or Stanford. Growing up as a Jew in Brooklyn, it was a very "amusing" perspective on how others have seen things, Galton that is.

Jack said...

Sorry, the critique that I've been searchiing for is not of Herrnsein's work, but of either Jensen's or Shockley's. Both had published work similar to Herrnstein's in or around 1972. The critique is a good read. I'll report back if I find the citation.
Sorry for the confusion, on my part.