Tuesday , January 22 2019
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What counts as evidence?

Summary:
What counts as evidence? What counts as evidence? I suspect we tend to overweight some kinds of evidence, and underweight others. Yeh’s paper is a lovely illustration of a general problem with randomized control trials – that they tell us how a treatment worked under particular circumstances, but are silent about its effects in other circumstances. They can lack external validity. Yeh shows that parachutes are useless for someone jumping from a plane when it is on the ground. But this tells us nothing about their value when the plane is in the air – which is an important omission. We should place this problem with RCTs alongside two other Big Facts in the social sciences. One is the replicability crisis … The other (related) is the fetishization of

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What counts as evidence?

What counts as evidence? I suspect we tend to overweight some kinds of evidence, and underweight others.

Yeh’s paper is a lovely illustration of a general problem with randomized control trials – that they tell us how a treatment worked under particular circumstances, but are silent about its effects in other circumstances. They can lack external validity. Yeh shows that parachutes are useless for someone jumping from a plane when it is on the ground. But this tells us nothing about their value when the plane is in the air – which is an important omission.

What counts as evidence?We should place this problem with RCTs alongside two other Big Facts in the social sciences. One is the replicability crisis … The other (related) is the fetishization of statistical significance despite the fact that, as Deirdre McCloskey has said, it “has little to do with a defensible notion of scientific inference, error analysis, or rational decision making” and “is neither necessary nor sufficient for proving discovery of a scientific or commercially relevant result.”

If we take all this together, it suggests that a lot of conventional evidence isn’t as compelling as it seems. Which suggests that maybe the converse is true.

Stumbling and Mumbling

Lars Pålsson Syll
Professor at Malmö University. Primary research interest - the philosophy, history and methodology of economics.

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