Re: [asa] Trees don't lie

From: George Murphy <GMURPHY10@neo.rr.com>
Date: Sat Mar 21 2009 - 11:11:49 EDT

I knew that what I said might be charged with elitism & in fact was going to
conclude with "If this be elitism, make the most of it" but decided that
would be unnecessarily provocative. But if it's elitism to say that the
average professional physicist knows more about physics than the average
non-physicist, so it goes.

I agree that in some fields "expertise" is overrated. It's pretty funny, in
a gallow humors way, to hear the argument that financial firms have to pay
big bonuses in order to hold on to the people whose "expertise" has driven
the company, & maybe the country, into the ground. OTOH there's a populist
temptation to debunk the idea of expertise because then "we're just as good
as they are." & it's not clear that being able to predict the future is
always the best criterion.

My brother's pre-power point definition of expert was "someone from out of
town with slides."

Shalom
George
http://home.roadrunner.com/~scitheologyglm

----- Original Message -----
From: "Glenn Morton" <glennmorton@entouch.net>
To: "George Murphy" <GMURPHY10@neo.rr.com>; "William Hamilton"
<willeugenehamilton@gmail.com>; <mrb22667@kansas.net>
Cc: "asa" <asa@calvin.edu>
Sent: Saturday, March 21, 2009 10:46 AM
Subject: Re: [asa] Trees don't lie

> 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
>>> "unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message
>>>
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Received on Sat Mar 21 11:12:12 2009

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