Uncovering the Coverage

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Editor & Publisher lays into The Washington Post's account of its pre-war coverage of Iraq and finds blatant attempts to re-write history.

Greg Mitchell notes that contrary to WaPo executive editor Leonard Downie Jr.'s assertion, doubts about the Bush administration's Iraq policy were not just found among the lunatic fringe. Downie and company simply decided contrary views were on the fringe and refused to cover them.

But Iraq and the Post is just an example of the way media outlets often define news as that which fits their world view. As belief in the pro-active power of government is the closest thing to an official religion of newsrooms, questioning government officials who insist they have perfect knowledge of a foreign land and infinite ability to organize and direct men and machines across thousands of miles is heresy.

The bloody business of war just makes the cost of such rigid orthodoxy stand out. The same thing takes places everyday with dozens of other issues. Land use, taxes, mass transit, telecom—you name it and solid stories are spiked and buried because they do not fit what "everyone knows."

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  1. This post, and the article, are based on the premise that the war was a bad thing.

    > This is especially true when a war turns out so badly, in lives lost, in money squandered and as a net loss in the war on terrorism.

    WTF? It is impossible to say as of now that the war has turned out badly. Lots of people, me included, would argue that the war has been a success already, and that Iraq is a much better place.

    It’s just political sniping, only possible with the help of 20/20 hindsight. Do you really think that the government insisted it had perfect knowledge of Iraq and an infinite ability to organize? Of course not.

    No, you hate the “bloody business of war”, no matter what the benefits, and so any reporting has to reflect your worldview. Media outlets define news as that which fits their worldview? Maybe so. But you judge the media’s performance on its congruence with your own worldview.

  2. everybody knows…

    “Bush Lied”

    “Kerry’s a War Hero”

    End of story. In the future, please be sure to fit all news and analysis into what everybody knows. Thank You.

  3. Brett, I seized on that exact statement. The E&P editor’s anti-war slip was showing.
    In general, though, Jeff is right that the media tend not to publish stuff that goes against their view of conventional wisdom. Most of that filtering is done at the assigning and discussion stage – or at the hiring stages, really.

  4. brett, the didn’t seem to hate the bloody business in Afghanistan. In fact, they seemed to apply the sort of cost/benefit analysis you recommend.

    Could it be that they came to their conclusion, a conclusion that represents a rather embarrassing renunciation of their previous position, by looking at the facts, thinking about them, and drawing conclusions?

    Nah, the story’s bad for Bush, so it must just be a knee jerk reaction.

  5. …you name it and solid stories are spiked and buried because they do not fit what “everyone knows.”

    This is true in all fields of human endeavour.

  6. GG:

    This is true in all fields of human endeavour.

    Not if the practitioners are honest. The sciences are the best at this, since scientific evidence can be evaluated and reproduced. Even the most ossified journals will publish papers that go against the grain if they have enough supporting evidence.

    The problem with postmodernism is that it grew out of literary criticism. Of course you’ll come up with a worldview that denies the possibility of objectivity if your field of experience has no independent method of determining factual accuracy or truth.

  7. I can’t believe nobody’s mentioned how dissenters to the Wur on Durgs are ignored in the same way.

    Why don’t the New York Times and the Washington Post go ahead and declare peace on drugs while they are in the repenting mood?

  8. Straw man alert:

    questioning government officials who insist they have perfect knowledge of a foreign land and infinite ability to organize and direct men and machines across thousands of miles

    Please link to statements of government officials to this effect.

    C’mon, guys – there is plenty to bitch about with the statist mentality without putting up straw men. Straw men are not useful, either in convincing the other guy or in refining your thinking.

    Cart before the horse alert:

    This is especially true when a war turns out so badly, in lives lost, in money squandered and as a net loss in the war on terrorism.

    A little early to passing historical judgment on the Iraqi campaign, nest ce pas? We don’t even know yet if we will win the war as a whole. If we lose, then, yeah, this judgment may or may not be justified. Or it may be that we lost for other reasons altogether, such as an unwillingness to take out Iran before they go nuclear. If we win, well, it will likely be because Bush’s strategic gamble in Iraq paid off.

  9. “The sciences are the best at this, since scientific evidence can be evaluated and reproduced.”

    In science, it happens often with the choices of study questions and interpretations of one’s own results. But it definitely happens. Every field has its broadly accepted but not well-proven tenets, which achieved that position because the “right” people put them forward or expressed approval of them, or for whatever reason they just came along at the right time. Which is not to say that science is doomed or fatally flawed or any kind of stupid crap like that – just that it’s also a human endeavour and this sort of thing is to some degree inevitable.

  10. This is true in all fields of human endeavour.

    Not if the practitioners are honest.

    ahem — like the man said, this is true in all fields of human endeavor. 🙂

  11. The herd mentality within journalism comes from their economic need to appear authoritative to their consumers. All journalist have an interest in mutually adopting the same general story. If they all tell the same rough story, no one journalist can be singled out for being wrong.

    For a long time this worked because media consumers had no means of alternate communication. Wherever they looked, newspapers, news magazines, radio/TV they saw the same general story. Individuals had no means of checking the story or of communicating to others on a mass scale if they disagreed with the story.

    In the Internet age, that house of cards could come tumbling down. The Kerry’s Christmas-in-Cambodia story (not that I want to hijack the thread) could be an example where the reigning media herd concept gets over thrown by an insurgent internet.

  12. Lots of people, me included, would argue that the war has been a success already, and that Iraq is a much better place.

    of course, “lots of people” haven’t been to iraq. “lots of people” are subject to remorseless propaganda instead, and therefore think they know what they don’t.

    ask the iraqis what they think. by most accounts i’ve heard/read, things are better in some ways and much worse in others — and, on the whole, iraq is much less safe than it ever was prewar and seems to be growing worse.

  13. db,

    Not if the practitioners are honest. The sciences are the best at this, since scientific evidence can be evaluated and reproduced.

    The sociology and philosophy of science differs radically from this position; indeed, that’s the whole point of discussing “paradigms” in science. Science is made by human beings; there exists no deus ex machina in it. Furthermore, the notion that reproducibility solves all problems is laughable – in part because of the human element, as well as artefacts created via measurement error and the like.

    The problem with postmodernism is that it grew out of literary criticism.

    No it didn’t. Post-modernism grows out of the writings of individuals like Husserl – who was a mathematician by trade – Frege – who was also a mathematician by trade – and Heidegger – who was a philosopher by trade. Indeed, the very roots of post-modernism can be found in Kant.

  14. db,

    BTW, literary criticism is an outgrowth of post-modernism and not the other way; you’ve got the geneaology of the subjects mixed up.

  15. In science, it happens often with the choices of study questions and interpretations of one’s own results. But it definitely happens. Every field has its broadly accepted but not well-proven tenets, which achieved that position because the “right” people put them forward or expressed approval of them, or for whatever reason they just came along at the right time. Which is not to say that science is doomed or fatally flawed or any kind of stupid crap like that – just that it’s also a human endeavour and this sort of thing is to some degree inevitable.

    It can and does happen, however, there are very accessible ways of showing that, in a particular case, it has happened, and how that paradigm filtration can be remedied.

    In politics or literary criticism, you have to wait until the prevailing, unsubstantiated opinions are replaced by new ones. In sciences, it’s a matter of someone finding contradictory evidence. If the sciences were even half as bad as literary circles, it would have taken a century for physicists to admit that relativity and quantum mechanics overthrew the old Newtonian “classical” worldview. Or even longer for them to admit to the problematic conflicts between those two theories that have led to superstring and m-theory.

    It’s because of the fact that scientists A) constantly question the human-instituted worldviews of prevailing theory, and B) have the tools (methodical and technological) to verify or refute those theories, that science is able to approach objectivity.

  16. GG:

    Furthermore, the notion that reproducibility solves all problems is laughable – in part because of the human element, as well as artefacts created via measurement error and the like.

    Um, that’s what the mathematics of statistics is all about. It allows you to determine the limits of your measurement capability and allow for them in subsequent calculations. It’s not laughable at all.

  17. db,

    BTW, just to drive my point home, Thomas Kuhn, the populizer of the term “scientific paradigms,” was a physicist before he jumped into the history and philosophy and science, and philosophy of science course where I first read Kuhn’s remarkable work (The Structure of Scientific Revolutions) was taught by a bio-chemist.

  18. db,

    Um, that’s what the mathematics of statistics is all about.

    Sorry, but that doesn’t cut it. Any statistician worth his salt will tell you that statistical analysis will not give you the precision that you appear to claim that it does – especially when it comes to relatively difficult questions – like say what the threshold effect of a certain chemical is (in other words, whether its an initiator or promoter from the standpoint of its carcinogenicity). It still comes down to judgment calls and fudging in the end.

  19. GG:

    You have offered nothing to “drive your point home,” just let me know that you have a few philosophy classes under your belt. I find the philosophy of science to be very interesting myself, especially since mathematics and the natural sciences grew largely out of the old philosophers’ work.

    The fact that some philosophers who speak of the difficulties in keeping science objective are themselves practicing (or formerly so) scientists does not change the fact that the scientific method, and the many mathematical tools developed over the centuries, are capable of enforcing the long-term objectivity of the sciences. The fact remains that experimental evidence talks and BS theories walk, eventually.

  20. db,

    The fact that some philosophers who speak of the difficulties in keeping science objective are themselves practicing (or formerly so) scientists does not change the fact that the scientific method, and the many mathematical tools developed over the centuries, are capable of enforcing the long-term objectivity of the sciences. The fact remains that experimental evidence talks and BS theories walk, eventually.

    (a) This wasn’t your original argument. (b) You’ve now retreated from your claim regarding post-modernism. (c) You have been arguing for a certitude that most scientists would find laughable (if you had ever read an article in say Nature or Science, and viewed the couched terminology most scientists use, you would understand why).

  21. GG:

    (a) Hmm. Well, I didn’t start arguing about this exact subject, but my statements now are not inconsistent with my previous ones.

    (b) I don’t think I have. The fact that I didn’t mention postmodernism in my recent reply to you does not indicate that I have changed my mind.

    (c) Scientists couch their hypotheses and results in tentative terms for precisely the reasons I’ve been arguing for. Scientists know that their work will be subject to verification through fact-checking and repeat observations by other researchers.

    (d) As to your comments regarding statistics, I will turn that part over to my statistician girlfriend.

  22. I think the point being made is that statistics provides the mathematics for the quantification of uncertainty, based upon the scientific method’s workhorse of repeated trials of an experiment (ie, the relative frequency definition of probability). In some cases you do get subjectivity added in (eg, Bayesian statistics), but as per the scientifice method, even in Bayesian circles your prior information is eventually inconsequential when you have enough data.

    It is not contrary to the scientific method to be honest in describing what exactly you can infer from an experiment, based on the assumptions made. Yes, there is always the war between the sample size and design you want, and the sample size and design you need, the ability to perform an experiment vs. an observational study, etc, but statistics will be able to tell you what kind of an experiment you need in order to support your claims.

    I would argue that the failure Gary describes is not in the mathematics, but the practicalities of experimentation. For example, measurement error in particular is a killer in linear regression; it makes assumptions much more messy. BUT, the mathematics is there to deal with it. And statistics’ job in this case is not to say “measurement error can eventually be overcome by a big sample size” (it can’t), but to say, “Here’s the quantifications you need to put on your conclusions in the face of measurement error.” It doesn’t mean that you’re not being precise, or that you can’t make any very well-grounded conclusions.

  23. “Downie and company simply decided contrary views were on the fringe and refused to cover them.”

    Jeff Taylor, welcome aboard! You’ve joined a large group who have been noticing the mainstream media’s propensity for this behavior since, oh, roughly the Ford Administration.

  24. Gary Gunnels,

    db never argued that science was perfect and absolute devoid of petty human foibles. He just argued that it was the best of all fields of human endeavor at avoiding such pitfalls.

    db is correct that the sciences, especially the natural sciences, generate, test and discard hypothesis at a far faster rate than any other fields. Any working scientist with more than a decade of experience can provide you with several stories about ideas they or their field had that where discarded. By contrast, ideas in the humanities have lifetimes measured in decades or even centuries.

    “literary criticism is an outgrowth of post-modernism and not the other way”

    I think you meant deconstructionism grew out of post-modernism. Literary criticism has been around since the Sumerians first made scratches in clay. db is correct that post-modernism grew out of literary criticism. It was a reaction to structuralism if I remember correctly.

    “It still comes down to judgment calls and fudging in the end.”

    Well, no. That is rather the point. The people who built your computer did not do so with knowledge acquired by “judgment calls and fudging.” Scientist in the end must be able to predict the behavior of the natural world. No amount of social pressure can create a theory that will let you manufacture a computer chip.

  25. I’m not too keen on this piece from ‘E&P’. The problem is, I’m not too keen on Howard Kurtz and his constant journalistic handwringing. But in this case, I do understand the issues that the Post staffers were staring down. And for Mitchell’s broad statement basically saying that the war’s a big failure and it’s a net loss to the war on terrorism- this is a conclusion based on his own speculation and worldview. Even if one agrees that this war was fought on highly questionable grounds- especially in the area of WMD, to come forth and proclaim a kind of ‘mathematical absolute’ indicating that we’re worse off today than before BECAUSE of this war, makes me skeptical of the E&P position. I think he brings up some fine points about the Posts pre-war coverage– all reasonable issues- but I would accuse Mitchell of bravado at the same time.

    For instance, I don’t believe in Human Induced Global Warming(tm). But wouldn’t go so far as to complain about newspaper coverage and then add something like “since the planet is clearly getting cooler…” This would make me guilty of the same mistake that I accuse so many others of making.

  26. I don’t believe a man with the character of John Kerry is a war criminal. I believe he lied to the Senate in 1971.

    What is the War Hero Afraid of?

    Form 180. Release all the records.

  27. John Kerry is no liar. I believe his 1971 Senate testimony when he said he committed war crimes.

    There is no statute of limitations on war crimes.

    What is the War Hero Afraid of?

    Form 180. Release all the records.

  28. Every body knows:

    1. John Kerry is a war criminal
    2. John Kerry is a liar

    Take your pick.

    Now why don’t the papers cover what every one knows? What are they afraid of?

    ================================

    What is the War Hero Afraid of?

    Form 180. Release all the records.

  29. db,

    (a) Hmm. Well, I didn’t start arguing about this exact subject, but my statements now are not inconsistent with my previous ones.

    Sure you are; indeed, you are now essentially what I was arguing to begin with.

    (b) I don’t think I have. The fact that I didn’t mention postmodernism in my recent reply to you does not indicate that I have changed my mind.

    If that’s the case then I suggest you either respond to my statements or retract your claim.

    (c) Scientists couch their hypotheses and results in tentative terms for precisely the reasons I’ve been arguing for.

    No, they couch them for the reasons that I’ve been arguing for; they realize that there is a great deal of uncertainity and bias (in both senses of that term) in their work.

  30. eve11,

    I think the point being made is that statistics provides the mathematics for the quantification of uncertainty, based upon the scientific method’s workhorse of repeated trials of an experiment (ie, the relative frequency definition of probability).

    I would argue that even this is not the case; you will always have uncertainty with regard to the quantification of uncertainty, and eventually this entails a lot of value judgments and guesswork. Which is why when the EPA tries to decide say the “potency” of a particular chemical, there is always a confidence limit for the “slope factor” that they draw. And this is why the EPA picks a figure above that line – because even with the best statistics they are still not that sure what the potency is.

    …but statistics will be able to tell you what kind of an experiment you need in order to support your claims.

    Experimental design will tell if the study is worth doing (whether you’re going to get a statistically significant result), but that’s about it.

    I would argue that the failure Gary describes is not in the mathematics, but the practicalities of experimentation.

    For example, measurement error in particular is a killer in linear regression; it makes assumptions much more messy. BUT, the mathematics is there to deal with it. And statistics’ job in this case is not to say “measurement error can eventually be overcome by a big sample size” (it can’t), but to say, “Here’s the quantifications you need to put on your conclusions in the face of measurement error.” It doesn’t mean that you’re not being precise, or that you can’t make any very well-grounded conclusions.

    This is all very well beside the point though; since in many cases, because of the typical inertia one will see in science, the experiment will never be done in the first place. Ultimately science is plagued by all the same things that plague other fields of human endeavour; that was my original contention, and no one has demonstrated this to be false.

  31. Shannon Love,

    db never argued that science was perfect and absolute devoid of petty human foibles. He just argued that it was the best of all fields of human endeavor at avoiding such pitfalls.

    Bullshit. And its not “the best of all fields.” Its one field of human endeavour, and I really wish people would stop mythologizing it.

    db is correct that the sciences, especially the natural sciences, generate, test and discard hypothesis at a far faster rate than any other fields.

    Bullshit. Historians do the same damn thing.

    Any working scientist with more than a decade of experience can provide you with several stories about ideas they or their field had that where discarded.

    And the same is true for historians; yet historians aren’t scientists.

    I think you meant deconstructionism grew out of post-modernism.

    No, I didn’t mean that. I meant that “modern” (and the use that term is highly probelmatic of course) literary criticism grew of post-modernism. Don’t try to put words in my mouth.

    db is correct that post-modernism grew out of literary criticism.

    It did not; you are absolutely wrong (again). Of course, unlike you, I actually demonstrate my arguments with examples. Post-modernism (at least in the philosophical sense of the term – as opposed to art, arcitecture, etc. – that you fail to understand the term post-modernism is indeed an allied across a whole swath of fields demonstrates your ignorance) is an outgrowth of the ideas of philosophers like Heidegger, Frege and Husserl.

    Anyway, when you talk about post-modernism you act like it is only allied to one field, when indeed nothing could be further from the case. Postmodernism is foremost a cultural movement and did not spring from literary criticism.

    Its more modern roots can be found in the writings of individuals like Heidegger, Frege, Husserl, Wittgenstein and Kierkegaard. Michel Foucault (his main field for many years was the history of science and stated that literary criticism was merely playing with words) – torch bearer for both Kant, Heidegger and Nietschze – was also crucial to the development of post-modernism since his work crystallized many of the diverse strains which took issue with at least portions of the so-called “enlightenment project” (his work on insanity is a perfect example of this).

    Anyway, the origins of post-modernism are not in literary criticism; literary criticism as we so often think of it today derives from post-modernism and not other way around.

    Scientist in the end must be able to predict the behavior of the natural world.

    And plenty of scientists have been able to do so in rather odd, and erroneous ways; the perfect example of this the Ptolemaic version of the “universe,” which lasted for a thousand years and did live up to the rigor of testing and prediction.

  32. Gary Gunnels,

    When historians can come up with measurable hypothesis’ I will then believe history is in the same class as nuclear physics.

    Goood science makes measureable predictions. When measurement deviates significantly from theory we know it is time for a new theory.

    I suppose you can argue that we can never know someting in any ultimate sense. But, it doesn’t matter. We know it well enough to get lunch. Which is an important fact.

    ==================

    Why did John Kerry sprint out of the church after each of his weddings?

    Vietnam made him afraid of rice impacts from behind.

    What is the War Hero Afraid of?
    Form 180. Release ALL the records.

  33. Shannon Love,

    Some summing up:

    Post-modernism arrived from growing criticism of the ideals that people associated with many domains of truth – truth in art, truth in philosophy, truth in science … it is outgrowth of a multi-faceted and ultimately eclectic set of influences. Some of these include Dadaism, existentialism generally, Wittgenstein’s ideas on language, Kuhn’s ideas of science as a “provisional consensus,” minimalism in art, the buildings of Frank Gehry, Andy Warhol, etc.

    Post-modernism and post-structuralism are two different animals; the most important difference concerns each position’s view on the “Enlightenment Project”: post-modernism celebrates its death while post-structuralism takes no interest in the matter.

  34. M. Simon,

    I didn’t claim that historians were scientists; I merely countered Shannon’s silly argument that:

    “the natural sciences, generate, test and discard hypothesis at a far faster rate than any other fields”

    Do pay attention.

    Goood science makes measureable predictions. When measurement deviates significantly from theory we know it is time for a new theory.

    Or we know that it might be time to get a better instrument, or that it might be time to get a better graduate student, etc.

    I suppose you can argue that we can never know someting in any ultimate sense. But, it doesn’t matter. We know it well enough to get lunch. Which is an important fact.

    Actually, how well we know it is generally up for debate and is one of the many areas where fudging comes into play. Thus, how “well” we know something is often the heart of many scientific controversies.

  35. GG,

    No, I didn’t mean that. I meant that “modern” (and the use that term is highly probelmatic of course) literary criticism grew of post-modernism.

    Your original post said “literary criticism”, not “modern literary criticism.” If you meant the latter, your post makes no sense, since db didn’t say post-modernism grew out of modern literary criticism, but rather the field of literary criticism in general.

    Don’t put words in my mouth.

    Doesn’t it suck when someone just lies in wait for you to make a semantic mistake?

  36. GG:

    you will always have uncertainty with regard to the quantification of uncertainty, and eventually this entails a lot of value judgments and guesswork.

    It’s not “uncertainty with regard to the quantification of uncertainty”, it’s the set of assumptions upon which your inference is based. These are always outlined clearly in good scientific studies. Value judgements and guesswork come mostly in policy decisions that are made based on scientific studies. Policy is a layer of human action and as such is subject to the pitfalls therein.

    Which is why when the EPA tries to decide say the “potency” of a particular chemical, there is always a confidence limit for the “slope factor” that they draw.

    You obviously have no idea what you are talking about. A confidence limit is exactly the quantification of uncertainty due to sampling error from the experiment. It’s based on the Central Limit Theorem — a mathematical result which describes the asymptotic behavior of randomness due to experimental design, as the sample size increases. Any basic 100-level stats course will tell you outright that 95% confidence explicitly means: “On average, in 95 out of 100 repeated trials of this experiment, the resulting number we get will fall within this interval.” It has nothing whatsoever to do with value judgements or guesswork. The band decreases with sample size.

    Bullshit. Historians do the same damn thing.

    Sorry, but historians can’t do the same damn thing. They don’t have repeatability, ergo they don’t have the scientific method.

    Look, I’m certainly not arguing that literary criticism and/or the study of philosophy and history aren’t worthwhile, but I do agree with Shannon and db when they maintain that science progresses faster, and can be more precise in both its conclusions and its methods, due to its objectivity. When someone produces art or rhetoric or fiction, you can be objective in the author’s methods or goals, but their overall effectiveness in conveying those goals depends not on them but on you. You can always internalize things and say, “I don’t care what the experts say, I like it!”. You can’t do that with science, because it has a specific set of external, objective evaluative criteria.

  37. Christ, Gary, why the hell are you so damn pissy all the time? The moment someone disagrees with you, you’re calling them names, making condescending insults, and/or going back to your trusty demand for rigorous documentation (which is an absurd demand in a forum like this, and which, despite your apparent delusions to the contrary, you rarely provide). I mean, we all know that you’re never wrong and that you’re the the most powerful intellectual force in this country since Ignatius J. Reilly; but learn some basic civility.

  38. GG suffers from low persuasiveness, being all stopped up with jargon and name droppings

  39. crimethink,

    It was obvious from the very statement that db made that we were discussing modern literary criticism. That I had to point this ought to Shannon was no fault of mine but her fault.

  40. eve11,

    It’s not “uncertainty with regard to the quantification of uncertainty”, it’s the set of assumptions upon which your inference is based.

    Those set of assumptions are value judgments and fudging; you can try to classify them as something else, but that’s what they are.

    These are always outlined clearly in good scientific studies.

    This statement is beside the point and really of no importance whatsoever; they remain what they are whether they are openly declared or not.

    Value judgements and guesswork come mostly in policy decisions that are made based on scientific studies.

    That’s just another layer of such placed on top the “assumptions” that scientists make; they do not differ in the way that you claim that they do.

    You obviously have no idea what you are talking about. A confidence limit is exactly the quantification of uncertainty due to sampling error from the experiment.

    Sure I do and the EPA does this exactly as I have stated.

    Sorry, but historians can’t do the same damn thing. They don’t have repeatability, ergo they don’t have the scientific method.

    I never claimed that they were scientists or were using the scientific method; nor did I speak to the issue of reproducibility. Reading comprehension isn’t your forte, eh? I did state that historians “generate, test and discard hypothesis [sic]… .” There is of course more than one way to generate, test and discard hypotheses than the scientific method (that this so-called method doesn’t even work the way most scientists claim that it works is another matter entirely).

    …that science progresses faster…

    Which means what exactly? How do you define “progress” in science v. “progress” in the world of say architecture or painting or philosophy?

    …due to its objectivity.

    The history of science has demonstrated over and over and over again that science is no more objective than the scientists involved in science. There is no deus ex machina here; and I really wish you stop prattling on with your silly determinism acting like science is some sort of living beast which acts outside the realm of human endeavour.

    You can’t do that with science, because it has a specific set of external, objective evaluative criteria.

    This sort of totalizing naturalism is absolute non-sense.

  41. db,

    GG:

    And then M. Simon implied that I stated something which I indeed did not state.

    Here, let me repeat the conversation for the slow-witted amongst the bunch (meaning you):

    [Shannon]: db is correct that the sciences, especially the natural sciences, generate, test and discard hypothesis at a far faster rate than any other fields.

    [Gary]: Bullshit. Historians do the same damn thing.

    [Shannon]: Any working scientist with more than a decade of experience can provide you with several stories about ideas they or their field had that where discarded.

    [Gary]: And the same is true for historians; yet historians aren’t scientists.

    As to the issue of “demonstration,” I need only turn you towards the econometrics of Fogel found in Time on the Cross, which won the Nobel prize for Economics. Here we see examples of generating, testing and tossing hypotheses in great number.

    ______________________

    No, because we know the limit of accuracy of a given instrument we can use statistics to quantify our uncertainty and determine whether the conflicting measurements are an artifact of instrumental accuracy or a flawed hypothesis.

    This in no way undermines my point; indeed, it merely strengthens it! 🙂 Thanks. 🙂

  42. db,

    Also, I’ll note that you have not repeated your silly and fallacious argument that post-modernism arises from literary criticism.

  43. Bored now.

    *dances naked like a wild heathen at the burning shrine of Science*

  44. Gary,

    I can attest that you’re lucky that “Bored now” is the final response you’ve elicited from eve11. You really don’t want to get in an argument over statistics, experimental design, and uncertainty, much less fudging and value judgments with her.

  45. GG:

    I didn’t claim that historians were scientists; I merely countered Shannon’s silly argument that:

    “the natural sciences, generate, test and discard hypothesis at a far faster rate than any other fields”

    Do pay attention.”

    You did no such thing. You simply said that historians do the same thing, without offering any of your precious backing documentation. Your “countering argument” more resembles a “yes it is/no it isn’t” slap fight.

    M. Simon wrote: Goood science makes measureable predictions. When measurement deviates significantly from theory we know it is time for a new theory.

    GG retorted: Or we know that it might be time to get a better instrument, or that it might be time to get a better graduate student, etc.

    No, because we know the limit of accuracy of a given instrument, we can use statistics to quantify our uncertainty and determine whether the conflicting measurements are an artifact of instrumental accuracy or a flawed hypothesis. We’ve been through the statistics thing already. “Do pay attention”

  46. “*dances naked like a wild heathen at the burning shrine of Science*”

    Just out of curiosity, where is that shrine? I’m slogging through thesis writing right now, I could really go for some co-ed naked science dancing.

  47. eve11 & db,

    I think its more intellectual cowardice & ignorance than anything.

    Ooooh, tough people threatening me … oh my! You really don’t know how pathetic both of you sound. In other words, idle threats are exactly that – idle threats.

    db,

    Also, I’ll note that you have not repeated your silly and fallacious argument that post-modernism arises from literary criticism. Nor have you tried to defend this claim since you first made it.

  48. “You really don’t know how pathetic both of you sound.”

    Wow, there might be just a wee touch of irony in the fact that those words came from Gary’s keyboard.

  49. J,

    Hmm, there is nothing pathetic about me. I do not make idle threats and I do actually know what the fuck I’m talking about (unlike db and his faux history of post-modernism).

  50. Just dropped in to see how things are at the nutfarm. Check you later, man.

  51. Fine crop o’ nuts. Chock full. Only took, what, three posts to go far OT.
    But as always, the posters who try to contrast Kerry’s Viet Nam service unfavorably with Bush’s Texas Guard escapade are good for a chuckle.
    Bush checked the box “No overseas service”
    Kerry said: “Send me”
    Kerry served a four year tour, and an additional 4 mos. or so on the Swift boats.
    Bush deserted.

  52. Fine crop o’ nuts. Chock full. Only took, what, three posts to go far OT.
    But as always, the posters who try to contrast Kerry’s Viet Nam service unfavorably with Bush’s Texas Guard escapade are good for a chuckle.
    Bush checked the box “No overseas service”
    Kerry said: “Send me”
    Kerry served a four year tour, and an additional 4 mos. or so on the Swift boats.
    Bush deserted.

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