The Cult of Statistical Significance

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2008-02-19
  • Publisher: Univ of Michigan Pr

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"McCloskey and Ziliak have been pushing this very elementary, very correct, very important argument through several articles over several years and for reasons I cannot fathom it is still resisted. If it takes a book to get it across, I hope this book will do it. It ought to." Thomas Schelling, Distinguished University Professor, School of Public Policy, University of Maryland, and 2005 Nobel Prize Laureate in Economics "With humor, insight, piercing logic and a nod to history, Ziliak and McCloskey show how economistsand other scientistssuffer from a mass delusion about statistical analysis. The quest for statistical significance that pervades science today is a deeply flawed substitute for thoughtful analysis. . . . Yet few participants in the scientific bureaucracy have been willing to admit what Ziliak and McCloskey make clear: the emperor has no clothes." Kenneth Rothman, Professor of Epidemiology, Boston University School of Health The Cult of Statistical Significanceshows, field by field, how "statistical significance," a technique that dominates many sciences, has been a huge mistake. The authors find that researchers in a broad spectrum of fields, from agronomy to zoology, employ "testing" that doesn't test and "estimating" that doesn't estimate. The facts will startle the outside reader: how could a group of brilliant scientists wander so far from scientific magnitudes? This study will encourage scientists who want to know how to get the statistical sciences back on track and fulfill their quantitative promise. The book shows for the first time how wide the disaster is, and how bad for science, and it traces the problem to its historical, sociological, and philosophical roots. Stephen T. Ziliak is the author or editor of many articles and two books. He currently lives in Chicago, where he is Professor of Economics at Roosevelt University. Deirdre N. McCloskey, Distinguished Professor of Economics, History, English, and Communication at the University of Illinois at Chicago, is the author of twenty books and three hundred scholarly articles. She has held Guggenheim and National Humanities Fellowships. She is best known forHow to Be Human* Though an Economist(University of Michigan Press, 2000) and her most recent book,The Bourgeois Virtues: Ethics for an Age of Commerce(2006).

Table of Contents

A significant problemp. 1
Dieting "significance" and the case of Vioxxp. 23
The sizeless stare of statistical significancep. 33
What the sizeless scientists say in defensep. 42
Better practice: [beta]-importance vs. [alpha]-"significance"p. 57
A lot can go wrong in the use of significance tests in economicsp. 62
A lot did go wrong in the American Economic Review during the 1980sp. 74
Is economic practice improving?p. 79
How big is big in economics?p. 89
What the sizeless stare costs, economically speakingp. 98
How economics stays that way: the textbooks and the refereesp. 106
The not-boring rise of significance in psychologyp. 123
Psychometrics lacks powerp. 131
The psychology of psychological significance testingp. 140
Medicine seeks a magic pillp. 154
Rothman's revoltp. 165
On drugs, disability, and deathp. 176
Edgeworth's significancep. 187
"Take 3[sigma] as definitely significant": Pearson's rulep. 193
Who sits on the egg of Calculus Canorus? not Karl Pearsonp. 203
Gosset: the fable of the beep. 207
Fisher: the fable of the waspp. 214
How the wasp stung the bee and took over some sciencesp. 227
Eighty years of trained incapacity: how such a thing could happenp. 238
What to dop. 245
A reader's guidep. 253
Notesp. 255
Works citedp. 265
Indexp. 289
Table of Contents provided by Blackwell. All Rights Reserved.

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