Allegory of the quant

April 19, 2010 at 5:07 am 4 comments

| Gabriel |

And now I will describe in a figure the enlightenment or unenlightenment of our nature — Imagine human beings living in a school; they have been there from childhood, having their necks and legs chained. In the school there is a computer, and between the computer and the prisoners an LCD display. Inside the computer are databases, who generate various tables and graphs. “A strange parable,” he said, “and strange captives.” They are ourselves, I replied; and they see only the shadows of the images which the computer throws on the LCD; these they give names like “variables” and “models.” Suppose now that you suddenly send them out to do field work and make them look with pain and grief to themselves at the human subjects; will they believe them to be real? Will not their eyes be dazzled, and will they not try to get away from the light to something which is already in machine-readable format with a well-documented codebook and a reasonably good sample design and response rate?


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  • 1. Hannah  |  April 19, 2010 at 8:11 am

    Hahaha interesting version of plato’s cave metaphor

  • 2. My2C  |  April 19, 2010 at 11:51 pm

    I’d say the problem is exactly the other way around … too much “intuitive” perception of social reality, too little/crappy measurement …

  • 3. e1saman  |  September 9, 2010 at 6:45 am

    Would you tag your blog ‘Philosophy of Science’? if yes what would be a short description?

    • 4. gabrielrossman  |  September 9, 2010 at 7:15 am

      i’m an empirical sociologist, not a philosopher so philosophy of science is a tertiary concern of the blog. the primary and secondary concerns being statistical programming and middle-range sociological theory, respectively. as far as the philosophical aspect goes, I’d say my take is non-Popperian scientific realism.

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