A statistical guide for the ethically perplexed - download pdf or read online

A statistical guide for the ethically perplexed - download pdf or read online

By Lawrence J Hubert; Howard Wainer

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In the recent highly-publicised case of R v. Sally Clark, a medical expert witness drew on published studies to obtain a figure for the frequency of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS, or ‘cot death’) in families having some of the characteristics of the defendant’s family. He went on to square this figure to obtain a value of 1 in 73 million for the frequency of two cases of SIDS in such a family. This approach is, in general, statistically invalid. It would only be valid if SIDS cases arose independently within families, an assumption that would need to be justified empirically.

128) Leo Breiman took on the issue directly of relying on stochastic models (or, as he might have said, “hiding behind”) in most of contemporary statistics. What Breiman advocates is the adoption of optimization in place of parameter estimation, and of methods that fall under the larger rubric of supervised or unsupervised statistical learning theory. , 2009) (T. Hastie, R. Tibshirani, & J. Friedman). We give the abstract from Leo Breiman’s Statistical Science article, “Statistical Modeling: The Two Cultures” (2001, 16, 199–215): There are two cultures in the use of statistical modeling to reach conclusions from data.

2 In a devastating critique of this practice, David Freedman in a Journal 12 A Statistical Guide for the Ethically Perplexed of Educational Statistics article, “As Others See Us: A Case Study in Path Analysis” (1987, 12, 101–128), ends with this paragraph: My opinion is that investigators need to think more about the underlying social processes, and look more closely at the data, without the distorting prism of conventional (and largely irrelevant) stochastic models. Estimating nonexistent parameters cannot be very fruitful.

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