On Beginnings: Part 15

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.

 

Maybe another Bill James can offer a non-definitive answer, allowing us to move on to the next question:

“When one views the world with no definite theological bias one way or the other, one sees that order and disorder, as we now recognize them, are purely human inventions.  We are interested in certain types of arrangement, useful, aesthetic, or moral, – so interested that whenever we find them realized, the fact emphatically rivets our attention.  The result is that we work over the contents of the world selectively.  It is overflowing with disorderly arrangements from our point of view, but order is the only thing we care for and look at, and by choosing, one can always find some sort of orderly arrangement in the midst of any chaos…Our dealings with Nature are just like this.  She is a vast plenum in which our attention draws capricious lines in innumerable directions.  We count and name whatever lies upon the special lines we trace, whilst the other things and the untraced lines are neither named nor counted.”  Continue reading

On Beginnings: Part 11

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.

 

Nate Silver’s B.A. in Economics landed him his own crappy job, which led him to cultivate an interest in baseball statistics that preceded his fortuitous entrée into political forecasting.  Silver’s early influences included the pioneers of sabermetrics, so I dug up an edition of the New Baseball Historical Abstract of liberal arts major Bill James.  Maybe Bill can speak to his own motivations for collecting the baseball statistics he helps innovate:

“Baseball statistics are simplifications of much more complex realities.  It may be unnecessary to say this because, of course, all human understanding is based on simplifications of more complex realities….  Baseball statistics are interesting not because they answer questions for us, but because they may be used to study issues.  The value of baseball statistics in identifying the greatest players is not that they answer all of the questions involved, but that they provide definitive answers to some of the questions involved, which enables us to focus on others.” Continue reading