The Controversy of “The Cult”

by kris bishop on December 17, 2008

The University of Michigan Press was privileged to have a featured book review in the inaugural edition of the Erasmus Journal for Philosophy and Economics; the book: THE CULT OF STATISTICAL SIGNIFICANCE: How the Standard Error Costs Us Jobs, Justice, and Lives, by Stephen T. Ziliak and Deirdre N. McCloskey, about how researchers in a broad spectrum of fields, from agronomy to zoology, employ “testing” that doesn’t test and “estimating” that doesn’t estimate.

The review itself, however, was an attack–not on the quality of the book, but on the very theories that underlie it, and represents the fundamental “unsafe” but important territory that these two authors have dared to tread. Fortunately, EJPE was kind enough to publish a response from the authors right on the next page about why this is important, who actually cares, who should care, and how to navigate the many traps of “the substantive/statistical distinction” that readers (and reviewers) often fall into…
EXCERPTS:

from: “Review of Stephen T. Ziliak’s and Deirdre McCloskey’s The Cult of Statistical Significance“, by Aris Spanos, Virginia Tech: 
“The very notion of statistical significance becomes ambiguous without statistical adequacy since it is unknown whether the apparent significance is genuine or simply an artifact, i.e., the result of a sizeable discrepancy between the relevant nominal and actual error probabilities; talk about ‘baseless size’!”
from: “A Response to Aris Spanos’ review of The Cult of Statistical Significance“, by Stephen T. Ziliak and Deirdre McCloskey:
“Scientific judgment is scientific judgment, a human matter of the community of scientists. As vital as the statistical calculations are as an input in the judgment, the judgment cannot be made entirely by the statistical machinery. This is really what Spanos craves: a machine for making scientific judgments.”
Now that’s a thinker…READ MORE HERE.
LINK: Read the Q&A with Steve Ziliak

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