November, 2018

Nov 18

The epistemology crisis

We have a crisis of epistemology. A tsunami of bad tools, bad ideas, biased actors, and unresolved problems. Among our many issues, we have: Predictions treated as facts, and inherently fuzzy historical data presented without error bars. Small scale studies on college students and professional guinea pigs extrapolated out to whole populations. Overused assumptions of normality and linearity, a holdover from when computation was hard. Scientific consensus treated as sacrosanct, theories with irrefutable tenants that adapt to all conceivable data, bad math that always skews in the direction of orthodoxy, and heretics burned in reputation and job prospects. The ongoing scandals of p-hacking, and the significance cliff itself, along with public confusion over significance versus effect size. The replicability crisis in the social sciences. Overconfidence is everywhere, with extreme predictions given publicity and bad predictions buried. Even basic questions, like how to correctly deal with outliers, let alone define them non-arbitrarily, remain unresolved.