Putting Megan Higgs and Thomas Basbøll in the room together

OK, the’re both on the blogroll so maybe they already know about each other.

But, just in case . . . here are two recent posts:

Higgs, Fact detector? It is not.:

Let’s assume that most people see science as the process of collecting more and more facts (where facts are taken as evidence of knowledge). I find this a realistic assumption because of how science is typically presented, taught, and discussed. I wholeheartedly believe it is more about understanding ignorance than collecting facts, but even then have found myself accidentally reinforcing this view with my own kids at times. . . . I also see too much emphasis from scientists on fact-finding and fact-reporting and adherence to expectations for this in dissemination of work. . . .

This is where my views on use of Statistics come in. I see statistical methods often used in a way that reinforces, and even further contributes to, a fact-centered way of operating in science. The common (and wrong) explanation for what some statistical methods provide is that of a litmus test for whether observed effects “are real or not.” What does “real” mean? I can’t help but interpreting it as a reflection of the view of Statistics as a convenient fact-finding machine. . . .

Statistical inferences are, and should be, complex and uncomfortable, not simple and comforting. Statistical inference is about inferring based on combining data and probability models, not about judging whether an experimental or observational result should be taken as a fact. There is no “determining” and no “answers” and no distinguishing “real” from “not real” — even though this language is common in scientific reporting. It is not helping science to keep pretending as if Statistics can detect facts.

Basbøll, The Gradual Formation of Knowledge in Discourse:

Knowledge is indeed a “state of mind”, i.e., “justified, true belief”, but that state should also always be thought of as a “stance”, a practical orientation in a social context. . . . Discourse is made up of gradual, ongoing processes. And they are supported by a whole array of practices, from the very local practices of the college classroom, to the very global practices of the published literature. . . .

We seem to have grown impatient with thinking. We might also say that we have too much blind trust in science. We no longer try to get our minds around difficult ideas. Instead, we imagine that “the facts are known” and that an expert somewhere knows those facts. All we have to do is listen and believe. It is the role of the scientist to confidently assert, not to “think out loud”. We’re unwilling to entertain a tentative formulation. . . .

To propose to subject a fact to further “thinking” (“after the fact,” as it were) is considered either quaint or rude, and in some cases outright dangerous.

Related: the problemwith statistics as a tool for “uncertainty laundering.”

Related: Lots of examples of academic/media authority figures attacking as quaint or rude any questioning after the fact, as it were. More generally, lots of resistance to the idea that published and celebrated claims are not actually true facts.