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I think there are really two issues here:

  1. The scientific validity of applying statistics to problems. I think you did a good job of talking about this in your post above. Statistics may have shortcomings, but these are really just the shortcomings inherent with incomplete information.
  2. Problems with the misapplication of statistics to scientific problems. This is the question of how user-friendly is statistics to researchers in other disciplines. Is it perhaps too easy for scientists trained as biologists or psychologists to dress up flimsy claims with a poorly constructed experiment that has positive results? Are the reviewers of these articles, (while being experts in their domains) insufficiently savvy in statistics to detect the flaws in the experimental design?

Rafael Irizarry

Kaiser, Thanks for this. I found Siegfried's article superficial, sensationalists, and misleading. Very dangerous in a time when science is under attack. I was about to post a comment but will post a link to your articulate and well thought out response instead.

Mark Palko

I was shocked (SHOCKED, I tell you) to hear that "the math rooted in the same principles that guarantee profits for Las Vegas casinos."

Mark Palko

Oops, should have said:

I was shocked (SHOCKED, I tell you) to hear that "the math [used by scientists is] rooted in the same principles that guarantee profits for Las Vegas casinos."


Mark: I skipped the Las Vegas part but it was hilarious too. It also shows a confusion between a probability problem and a statistics problem (the inverse), which recurs throughout the article.
If he had connected the Las Vegas casinos to pharma drugs, that would be a first for great reporting. So many people think if they take drug A, their level of something will be decreased for sure when in fact, they've just bought a lottery ticket (the odds are much better than the casinos, but...)

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