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New Age "Asiatic" thought ... is establishing itself as the
hegemonic ideology of global capitalism. (Zizek)

Monday, December 5

lies, damn lies, and statistics

One never knows from what unsuspected quarter the next clue, the next bit of evidence will come from. In this case, from Sir Ronald Aylmer Fisher (1890-1962).
Like many of the founders of modern statistical theory, Fisher was a keen proponent of eugenics. This issue was obscured by charged and emotive rhetoric, and Fisher believed that an objective and mathematically rigorous way of dealing with quantitative data could remove individual bias and thus render the lessons of eugenics compelling.

~ from Interpreting Probability:
Controversies and Developments in the Early Twentieth Century

David Howie, Cambridge University Press, 2002. p 8. [more...]

As the above author notes, Donald MacKenzie's Statistics in Britain, 1865-1930: The Social Construction of Scientific Knowledge makes this point even more strongly. An Amazon reader reviewing the book writes:

All three of the major figures studied [Francis Galton, Karl Pearson and R.A. Fisher] were connected to the eugenics movement, and MacKenzie examines the relationship of eugenics and biometry to their work in mathematical statistics. He shows how Fisher's Genetical Theory of Natural Selection evidences the eugenics goals which are usually associated with Pearson. While it is a bit trickier to connect his books on Scientific Inference and Statistical Methods to eugenics, MacKenzie is quite convincing.


the unfit:
a history of a bad idea



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