William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Journal Bans Wee P-values—And Confidence Intervals! Break Out The Champagne!

I'll drink to that!

I’ll drink to that!

Well, it banned all p-values, wee or not. And confidence intervals! The journal of Basic and Applied Social Psychology, that is. Specifically, they axed the “null hypothesis significance testing procedure”.

I’m still reeling. Here are excerpts of the Q&A the journal wrote to accompany the announcement.

Question 2. What about other types of inferential statistics such as confidence intervals or Bayesian methods?

Answer to Question 2. Confidence intervals suffer from an inverse inference problem that is not very different from that suffered by the NHSTP. In the NHSTP, the problem is in traversing the distance from the probability of the finding, given the null hypothesis, to the probability of the null hypothesis, given the finding. Regarding confidence intervals, the problem is that, for example, a 95% confidence interval does not indicate that the parameter of interest has a 95% probability of being within the interval. Rather, it means merely that if an infinite number of samples were taken and confidence intervals computed, 95% of the confidence intervals would capture the population parameter. Analogous to how the NHSTP fails to provide the probability of the null hypothesis, which is needed to provide a strong case for rejecting it, confidence intervals do not provide a strong case for concluding that the population parameter of interest is likely to be within the stated interval. Therefore, confidence intervals also are banned from BASP.

Holy moly! This is almost exactly right about p-values. The minor flaw is not pointing out that there is no unique p-value for a fixed set of data. There are many, and researchers can pick whichever they like. And did you see what they said about confidence intervals? Wowee! That’s right!

The continue:

…The usual problem with Bayesian procedures is that they depend on some sort of Laplacian assumption to generate numbers where none exist. The Laplacian assumption is that when in a state of ignorance, the researcher should assign an equal probability to each possibility…However, there have been Bayesian proposals that at least somewhat circumvent the Laplacian assumption, and there might even be cases where there are strong grounds for assuming that the numbers really are there…thus Bayesian procedures are neither required nor banned from BASP.

Point one: they sure love to say Laplacian assumption, don’t they? Try it yourself! Point two: they’re a little off here. But they were just following what theorists have said.

If you are in a “state of ignorance” you can not “assign an equal probability to each possibility”, whatever that means, because why? Because you are in a state of ignorance! If I ask you how much money George Washington had in his pocket the day he died, your only proper response, unless you be an in-the-know historian, is “I don’t know.” That neat phrase sums up your probabilistic state of knowledge. You don’t even know what each “possibility” is!

No: assigning equal probabilities logically implies you have a very definite state of knowledge. And if you really do have that state of knowledge, then you must assign equal probabilities. If you have another state of knowledge, you must assign probabilities based on that.

The real problem is lazy researchers hoping statistical procedures will do all the work for them—and over-promising statisticians who convince these researchers they can deliver.

Laplacian assumption. I just had to say it.

Stick with this, it’s worth it.

Question 3. Are any inferential statistical procedures required?

Answer to Question 3. No…We also encourage the presentation of frequency or distributional data when this is feasible. Finally, we encourage the use of larger sample sizes than is typical in much psychology research…

Amen! Many, many, and even many times you don’t need statistical procedures. You just look at your data. How many in this group vs. that group. Just count! Why does the difference exist? Who knows? Not statistics, that’s for sure. Believing wee p-values proved causation was the biggest fallacy running. We don’t need statistical models to tell us what happened. The data can do that alone.

We only need models to tell us what might happen (in the future).

…we believe that the p < .05 bar is too easy to pass and sometimes serves as an excuse for lower quality research.

Regular readers will know how lachrymose I am, so they won’t be surprised I cried tears of joy when I read that.

We hope and anticipate that banning the NHSTP will have the effect of increasing the quality of submitted manuscripts by liberating authors from the stultified structure of NHSTP thinking thereby eliminating an important obstacle to creative thinking. The NHSTP has dominated psychology for decades; we hope that by instituting the first NHSTP ban, we demonstrate that psychology does not need the crutch of the NHSTP, and that other journals follow suit.

Stultifying structure of hypothesis testing! I was blubbering by this point.


Thanks to the multitude readers who pointed me to this story.

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Coming Clean On My Global Warming Funding

This is everything.

This is everything.

Since the “Why models run hot” flap started a witch hunt in Congress, I thought I’d give the complete story of my funding for any work of any kind done on climatology since after I graduated Cornell. When I was a student I made about $13,000 a year.

I have received $110 in direct cash payments from donors (for which I am immensely and most sincerely grateful). That’s one hundred ten. United States dollars. This all came within the last three months. So I’m gathering up speed.

A generous reader sent me to the Heartland Conference last year, picking up the tickets, registration, and hotel bill (was it one night or two?). This ran to, say, six or seven hundred. I didn’t speak (wasn’t invited) but I did blog about the event, as regular readers will remember.

When I was a professor at the Cornell Medical School, they sent me to three or four AMS meetings and the like. Call it $3,000.

And one I nearly forgot. I was at the first Heartland Conference many years ago. I got some kind of honorarium for a talk on hurricanes (and boy was I boring: this was before I learned what I now know about statistics), the exact same talk I had given to the AMS annual conference a couple of months before that. This was around $1,000. I did the work on the hurricane papers on my own (I don’t recommend reading them).

Round it up to, say, $5,000. Spread over more than a decade. Because you’re my friends, I can tell you I blew that $110 all on whiskey and cigars.

How much did I get for “Why models run hot”? Nothing.

Of course, you have to balance that hefty five grand by the amount I’ve lost. For instance, I was being groomed to take over a spot at Lawrence Livermore lab a few years back (Ben Santer’s playground). And then, one day, the powers-that-were there suddenly forgot who I was. Emails and phone calls were never returned. Right, Bill?

I had another job lined up with a firm whose purpose was to expose bad science. But they backed off and said they didn’t want themselves to become known as working with a “denier.” I’d tell you who they were, but I signed a non-disclosure. They weren’t the first or last.

An interview I had with a small teaching college (“our students come first” kind of place) is typical. I did so well that I was brought into the office of the chair and shown just where to buy houses (there is obviously more to this story than I’m telling here). But later a department member found my website. This kind of thing has happened more than once.

Although, to be fair, this particular incident was exacerbated because I admitted that I would not write any government grants. I might have been forgiven for being a “denier”. But to refuse to bring in government money? Never. That’s academic freedom for you. It also hasn’t helped me that I don’t want to teach frequentist statistics to impressionable kids and fill their skulls with fallacies. Academic freedom insists you teach what you’re told. Of course, my stance that Diversity equates Mandated Uniformity is somewhat of a taint. Academic freedom again.

Understand I’m not complaining: it’s these schools’ money and they’re free to spend it any way they wish. Until the government makes it spend it the way they insist. I just don’t think the term “academic freedom” has any meaning.

That new CATO group was going to hire me on, at least to write some pieces for them. But I got a call that said one of the VPs there couldn’t work with me because of my stance on gay so-called marriage. Guess I’m a “denier” on that one, too.

And this is why I say on my “Who’s WMB” page that except for two weeks a year I am “completely independent”, a pleasant enough euphemism. At least it’s giving me time to finish this damned book about a better way to think about and do probability and statistics (almost there; stay tuned).

That’s about it. I do not jest when I say I’m thisclose to using what I learned by working with my father and setting up as a handyman.

Fair’s fair. Now let’s hear from the other side. If they have the guts.


Summary Against Modern Thought: That God Is One II

This may be proved in three ways. The first...

This may be proved in three ways. The first…

See the first post in this series for an explanation and guide of our tour of Summa Contra Gentiles. All posts are under the category SAMT.

Previous post.

Finishing the God is one argument this week. Many words, but boy do they flow. If you’ve been following the discussion, this should be a breeze. But if not, review the subjects of essence and existence, and recall the in God they are the same.

Chapter 42 That God is One Two (as in Part two)

[9] Furthermore, given two gods that are posited as agreeing in the necessity of being, either that in which they differ is in some way required for the completion of their necessity of being, or it is not. If it is not, then it is something accidental, because that which accrues to a thing without contributing to its being is an accident. Hence, this accident has a cause, which is, consequently, either the essence of the necessary being or something else. If its essence, then, since the necessity itself of being is its essence, as is evident from what was said above, the necessity of being will be the cause of that accident. But the necessity of being is found in both gods. Therefore, both will have that accident, and thus will not be distinguished with reference to it. If, however, the cause of the accident is something else, it follows that, unless that something else existed, this accident would not exist; and unless this accident existed, the aforesaid distinction would not exist. Therefore, unless that something else existed, these two supposed necessary beings would not be two but one. Therefore, the proper being of each depends on the other, and thus neither of them is through itself a necessary being…

[11] It is, therefore, not possible to posit many beings of which each is through itself a necessary being.

Notes In other words, it isn’t and can’t be turtles all the way down, which each one giving something to another which the other doesn’t have.

[12] What is more, if there are two gods, either the name God is predicated of both univocally, or equivocally. If equivocally, this is outside our present purpose. Nothing prevents any given thing from being equivocally named by any given name, provided we admit the usage of those who express the name. But if it be used univocally, it must be predicated of both according to one notion, which means that, in notion, there must be in both one nature. Either, therefore, this nature is in both according to one being, or according to a being that is other in each case. If according to one, there will not be two gods, but only one, since there cannot be one being for two things that are substantially distinguished. If each has its own being, therefore in neither being will the quiddity be its being. Yet this must be posited in God, as we have proved. Therefore, neither of these two beings is what we understand by the name God. It is, therefore, impossible to posit two gods…

Notes Shorter version: since God’s existence and essence are one, as previously proved, to say there are two (or more) gods is to speak equivocally.

[13] …therefore there cannot be several beings of which each is a necessary being. It is, consequently, impossible that there be several gods.

[15] Furthermore, either the nature signified by the name God is individuated through itself in this God, or it is individuated through something else. If through something else, composition must result. If through itself, then it cannot possibly belong to another, since the principle of individuation cannot be common to several, It is impossible, therefore, that there be several gods.

[16] If, again, there are several gods, the nature of the godhead cannot be numerically one in two of them. There must, therefore, be something distinguishing the divine nature in this and in that god. But this is impossible, because, as we have shown above, the divine nature receives the addition neither of essential differences nor of accidents. Nor yet is the divine nature the form of any matter, to be capable of being divided according to the division of matter. It is impossible, therefore, that there be two gods.

Notes Of course, this follows even if you’re not yet convinced God exists. And if you are not yet convinced, you need to go back and re-read especially Chapter 13. And the material proving God is pure act, actuality only, and in Him there is no potential or accidents (if you like, parts that are not essential).

[17] Then, too, the proper being of each thing is only one. But God is His being, as we have shown. There can, therefore, be only one God…

[19] Furthermore, we notice in each genus that multitude proceeds from some unity. This is why in every genus there is found a prime member that is the measure of all the things found in that genus. In whatever things, therefore, we find that there is an agreement in one respect, it is necessary that this depend upon one source. But all things agree in being. There must, therefore, be only one being that is the source of all things. This is God.

[20] Again, in every rulership he who rules desires unity. That is why among the forms of rulership the main one is monarchy or kingship. So, too, for many members there is one head, whereby we see by an evident sign that he to whom rulership belongs should have unity. Hence, we must admit that God, Who is the cause of all things, is absolutely one…

Notes This is St Thomas being complete. I don’t think these last arguments are convincing on their own. [19] relies on earlier material on being-in-act, and where that ultimately arises. [20] seems to be missing premises about what God is up to. But, of course, we don’t need either of these two and have enough both from last week and this to prove (with certainty) there is only one God who is the ground of all being, the Unmoved Mover, etc.


Video: How To Think About Statistics, Figures, And New Ideas

Hard link to the video.

It is a delight to change the subject from the dismal used-to-be science of global warming—it would be a blessing if I never had to write of it again—to something more useful.

Now many don’t know it, but the Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen was a very learned man. He not only did these television broadcasts and a series of popular books, but he also have several scholarly works, including a volume on the philosophy of science which is highly recommended.

This short video (from 1955) is as good an introduction to statistics are you’re likely to find. Particularly in that it cautions, or rather hints over and again, that there are far better things to worship than research results. And don’t’cha just love that bit about the 12.3%? I know I do. And the good bis. even has things to say about conflicts of interest (reminder: the government, the scariest thing out there on these shores, funds most research).

At the 10:48 mark, if you don’t know. In 1936, the Literary Digest polled 10 million folks, of whom some 2.4 million replied, about who they’d vote for in the upcoming presidential election. The poll gave a guess of 370 electoral votes for Landon and 161 for Roosevelt. Oops. And don’t forget that all polls are scientific, and all are valid—for the types of people sampled (here and here).

Some juicy quotes to which we can all assent:

  • “…never take graphs and statistics too seriously.”
  • “That was the problem Kinsey had. Did everybody tell Kinsey the truth? Not on your life.”
  • “Now here’s one statistic which you can take from me that is absolutely reliable, and it’s worth remembering: 50% of all of the married people in the United States are women.”
  • “There are styles in thinking just as there are styles in clothes.”
  • “If you marry the mood or the spirit of the age, you will be a widow in the next one.”
  • “And to think well, remember that you cannot takes the methods and conclusions of one science and apply them indiscriminately to another science.”
  • “To think well, one has to have principles that are independent of space and time, by which one can live.”

Regarding that 50% of married are women statistic, you might now think it untrue and not so reliable. But it is in fact still, and ever will be, true. A number different than 50% claim to be married, but that is nothing. Sanitariums are chock-full of folks who think they are Napoleon, but the real number is none. “It is the easiest thing in the world to tumble into some mood today.”

Besides the false belief that essence can be defined at will, we have scientism.

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