Re: [asa] Trees don't lie

From: Glenn Morton <glennmorton@entouch.net>
Date: Sat Mar 21 2009 - 10:46:40 EDT

While I agree that review is good to force one to construct better arguments
I am less sanguine about the implied view that only the 'educated' or
'expert' should be able to judge and tell the great unwashed what to
beleive.

I recently took a 3 week voyage to Antarctica. It was a wonderful trip,
walked on Antarctica, stood with penguins, stood feet from big seals
etc--and it was cold. But that isn't why I mention this. On the trip was a
super wealthy guy who founded a big corporation whose trucks everyone sees
on our roads. He was very very liberal politically and at dinner one night
with his family, they started beating up on me for being politically
conservative as if it was the stupidest thing to be conservative.

I finally posed the question (which is related to Randy's Daily Me post
today) of why it was that the Northeastern part of the country was Blue and
the middle part of the country was Red. I mentioned the Ising model
(physicists know what this is, look it up if you don't) in which particles
in a metal that is cooling will align with their neighbors. I suggested that
this was the reason. This arrogant super wealthy individual who didn't know
anything about the Ising model explained it by saying "Clearly there is a
problem with the educational system in the middle part of the country." His
son, seeing that I was about to jump on his father, saved the day by arguing
that it was demographics, not education. That saved me from a murder charge
on a Chilean flagged vessel.

The thing I see in your note below George, is an elitism, not as bad as that
guy on my ship, but an elitism none the less. The common person must be
told what to beleive. Studies show that experts are way over confident in
their abilities and woefully short in their ability to predict what will
happen.

"History has repeatedly shown that share markets are a better forecaster of
the economy than the reverse, and yet it is intriguing that most investment
discussions begin with an economic preamble and draw investment conclusions
based upon the economic outlook.
It feels comfortable, but also feels a little like putting the cart before
the horse, particularly given that professional economic forecasters
struggle to forecast the economy. This was illustrated recently by respected
fixed income analyst Jim Bianco of Bianco Research. He studied the six
monthly surveys conducted by the Wall Street Journal of prominent economists
and their outlook for interest rates over the last 20 years - 40 surveys in
all. Bianco found that the group correctly forecast the future direction of
interest rates only 30 per cent of the time.
http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff/3960567a1864.html
accessed 2-13-07

"Tetlock then cranked all those numbers through every kind of statistical
thresher, flail, and grinder you can imagine, and the result was clear:
Experts don't actually exist. Specifically, experts were no better than
nonexperts at predicting the future. They weren't even as good as computer
programs that merely extrapolate the past. The best experts could not
explain more than 20% of the variability in outcomes, but crude algorithms
could explain 25% to 30%, and sophisticated algorithms could explain 47%.
Consider what this means. On all sorts of questions you care about-Where
will the Dow be in two years? Will the federal deficit balloon as
baby-boomers retire?-your judgment is as good as the experts'. Not almost as
good. Every bit as good."
"Which is not to say that experts are no different from you and me. They're
very different. For example, they're much more confident in their
predictions than nonexperts are, though they obviously have no reason to be.
For example, the members of the American Political Science Association
predicted in August 2000 that a Gore victory was a slam dunk." Geoffrey
Colvin, "Ditch the 'Experts'" Fortune, Feb 6, 2006, p. 44

I can't find it now but one Tetlock account says that experts being 80%
confidence are no more right than the average joe on the street.

----- Original Message -----
From: "George Murphy" <GMURPHY10@neo.rr.com>
To: "Glenn Morton" <glennmorton@entouch.net>; "William Hamilton"
<willeugenehamilton@gmail.com>; <mrb22667@kansas.net>
Cc: "asa" <asa@calvin.edu>
Sent: Saturday, March 21, 2009 7:00 AM
Subject: Re: [asa] Trees don't lie

> The internet has already gone a long way toward legitimizing crackpot
> stuff. People who, 50 years ago, would have been able to harangue only
> their relatives on rainy Sunday afternoons with their ill-informed
> opinions & "theories" today can get them broadcast to the whole world with
> pretty much the same cachet as things published in professional journals.
> "Crackpot papers will quickly not be read" - by whom? Perhaps by people
> knowledgeable in the field in question but the general public is far less
> able to make the necessary distinctions between something that's worthy of
> The Physical Review and something in Joe Schmoe's blog.
> & on environmental issues the opinions of the general populace, & the
> people it elects, are as important as those of experts - if not more so.
>
> Shalom
> George
> http://home.roadrunner.com/~scitheologyglm
>
>
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Glenn Morton" <glennmorton@entouch.net>
> To: "William Hamilton" <willeugenehamilton@gmail.com>;
> <mrb22667@kansas.net>
> Cc: "asa" <asa@calvin.edu>
> Sent: Friday, March 20, 2009 8:18 PM
> Subject: Re: [asa] Trees don't lie
>
>
>> Bill asked:
>> "But can you suggest an alternative?"
>>
>> Yes, a free for all. Crackpot papers will quickly not be read. With
>> today's internet, there is no need for peer review. Post the papers on
>> the internet and be done with it. That way, no small minded ideologues
>> can stop good things from being published.
>>
>>
>>
>> To unsubscribe, send a message to majordomo@calvin.edu with
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Received on Sat Mar 21 10:46:41 2009

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