There is a Yeti in the back of everyone’s mind; only the blessed are not haunted by it. ~ old sherpa saying

Friday, January 6, 2012

Robert McLuhan on Anecdotal Evidence | TDG - Science, Magick, Myth and History

The very excellent Daily Grail brings us the following, by Alan Borky:Robert McLuhan on Anecdotal Evidence. Borky comments on his reading of McLuhan's article on anecdotal evidence:
In his piece McLuhan makes the observation "the skeptic’s most popular arguments is that anecdotal evidence can’t be relied on".

The problem with that particular skeptical position is it misses the point ALL EVIDENCE IS ANECDOTAL.
There is much more that is insightful and powerful. In this brief review Borky really gets it.


Terry the Censor said...

Fact-check time!

Borky is plainly wrong. He gives the examples of disgraced stem cell researcher Hwang Woo-suk and discredited social psychologist Diederik Stapel:

> their downfall was acclaimed as proof of the power of science but the truth is we only have the anecdotal evidence of the students their professors did or didn't do the things they claim and we only have the word of the investigators they actualy established the fraud they claimed to establish.

A quick look at Wikipedia shows Woo-suk was convincted in court of embezzlement and bioethical violations. That is not playing at investigating. Also, Woo-suk admitted to some academic misbehaviour, but mainly claimed ignorance of his own work or evoked conspiracies to defend himself (both quite damning).

Stapel admitted committing fraud -- plain and simple.

Borky totally mischaracterises the facts. He also avoids the most obvious check on academic fraud: reproducibility. No matter what Woo-suk claimed to do, if no other lab could reproduce his findings, science would have discarded them.

Borky's argument only makes sense when he leaves out the most important part of science.

Not a job well done! Tsk, tsk!

Regan Lee said...

Interesting, and too bad...

Still, the comment I quoted is a good one.

Terry the Censor said...

But it's not true. If Borky had said "most evidence" he would have something there (certainly in the social sciences, experts can fool themselves).

I am concerned that Borky is taking a tack common of so many in the so-called fringe sciences. Lacking hard facts, they tend not to build their arguments on them; rather, they design their arguments in response to skeptics. That is, instead of trying to prove something empirically, they try to do it with rhetoric. Discrediting science is a favourite.

For some unknown reason, they seem to think discrediting science makes their fringe claim the "true" science by default.