Kudos to Professor Andrew Gelman

December 29, 2017
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(This article was originally published at Statistics – Win-Vector Blog, and syndicated at StatsBlogs.)

Kudos to Professor Andrew Gelman for telling a great joke at his own expense:

Stupid-ass statisticians don’t know what a goddam confidence interval is.

He brilliantly burlesqued a frustrating common occurrence many people say they “have never seen happen.”

One of the pains of writing about data science is there is a (small but vocal) sub-population of statisticians jump on your first mistake (we all make errors) and then expand it into an essay on how you: known nothing, are stupid, are ignorant, are unqualified, and are evil.

I get it: many people writing about data science do not know enough statistics. However, not every person writing from a data science point of view is statistically ignorant. That is not to say computer science (my original field) doesn’t have similar problems.

Trying to destroy a sweater by pulling on a loose thread in no way establishes that it wasn’t a nice sweater in the first place (or how nice a sweater it would be if the loose thread were fixed).

(BTW: the book in question is in fact excellent. Chapter 12 alone is worth at least ten times the list price of the book.)



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