Friday, 6 November 2009

Statistics as a Liberal Art

This is a very thought provoking article from David Moore in 1998. His argument is that modern statistics is much less about doing the calculations and more about the 'grand ideas' that for the backbone of statistics as a distinctive discipline.

Some quotes;

" I find it hard to think of policy questions, at least in domestic policy, that have no statistical component. The reason is of course that reasoning about data, variation, and chance is a flexible and broadly applicable mode of thinking. That is just what we most often mean by a liberal art."

and

"Here is some empirical evidence that statistical reasoning is a distinct intellectual skill. Nisbett et al. (1987) gave a test of everyday, plain-language, reasoning about data and chance to a group of graduate students from several disciplines at the beginning of their studies and again after
two years. Initial differences among the disciplines were small. Two years of psychology, with statistics required, increased scores by almost 70%, while studying chemistry helped not at all. Law students showed an improvement of around 10%, and medical students slightly more than
20%. The study of chemistry or law may train the mind, but does not strengthen its statistical component."

You can get the full paper Here

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