Tag: McCloskey

Paper: The Cult of Statistical Significance

Abstract: We want to persuade you of one claim: that William Sealy Gosset (1876-1937)—aka “Student” of “Student’s” t-test—was right, and that his difficult friend, Ronald A. Fisher (1890-1962), though a genius, was wrong. Fit is not the same thing as importance. Statistical significance is not the same thing as scientific importance or economic sense. But the mistaken equation is made, we find, in 8 or 9 of every 10 articles appearing in the leading journals of science, economics to medicine. The history of this “standard error” of science involves varied characters and plot twists, but especially R. A. Fisher’s canonical translation of “Student’s” t. William S. Gosset aka “Student,” who was for most of his life Head Experimental Brewer at Guinness, took an economic approach to the logic of uncertainty. Against Gosset’s wishes his friend Fisher erased the consciously economic element, Gosset’s “real error.” We want to bring it back.

‘The Cult of Statistical Significance’ (2009), by Stephen T. Ziliak and Deirdre N. McCloskey, in Section on Statistical Education.


Excerpt: Deirdre McCloskey, The Rhetoric of Economics

Consider, for example, the implied authors created by these opening lines in the American Economic Review‘s issue of March 1989: “Two decades of research have failed to produce professional consensus on the contribution of federal government civil rights activity to the economic progress of black Americans” (Heckman and Payner 1989, p. 138). The implied authors here are policy-oriented, precise but awkward (look at the nominal phrase “federal government civil rights activity”), aware of the longer trends in scholarship, scholarly (with a Latinate vocabulary), dignified yet decisive, men who will succeed where others have “failed”. […]

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McCloskey, D.N. (1986). The Rhetoric of Economics, University of Wisconsin Press; 2nd ed. (1998), p. 7.