This essay (serialized here across 24 separate posts) uses words and numbers to discuss the uses of words and numbers — particularly examining evaluations of university degrees that employ statistical data to substantiate competing claims. Statistical analyses are crudely introduced as the mode du jour of popular logic, but any ratiocinative technique could likely be inserted in this re-fillable space and applied to create and defend categories of meaning with or without quantitative support. Questions posed across the series include: Is the data informing or affirming what we believe? What are the implications of granting this approach broader authority? The author, Melanie Williams, graduated from UA in 2006, with a B.A. in Anthropology and Religious Studies.
Are there other areas where the application of Bayesian inference might seem more dubious than Nate Silver – who offers it as a universal method of assessing data – suggests? Let’s venture away from numbery things and into, say, the proceedings of a criminal trial, where an impartial judge mediates a contest of vignettes between professional raconteurs before an audience of peers tasked with deciding which version of justice is the just-iest.. A criminal trial sounds straightforward in theory, and a fair candidate for Bayesian inference. A criminal trial in practice, however, is rarely so amenable to strict forms of logic. Continue reading