Comments on and Reactions to Freedman, Statistics and the Scientific Method

  • Stephen E. Fienberg


Mindless applications of regression models to poorly measured data in the social sciences are what Freedman deplores. I yield to nobody in my Opposition to mindlessness—in the natural sciences as in the social sciences—and I am steadfastly in favor of good measurement of theoretical relevant constructs. But frequently the lines between mindlessness and wise exploration, between measurement guided by lame-brained theories and that inspired by a truly visionary world view are unclear, distinguishable only through the myopia-correcting lenses of hindsight. Freedman uses such hindsight to discern and describe some examples of mathematical models in the natural sciences that have succeeded admirably, and he contrasts them to “typical regression models in the social sciences.” He suggests the comparison may be unfair and even cruel: In this suggestion he is correct; The comparison is certainly unfair. While social science comes off second-best by design, surely the tables would be turned were we to take shoddy examples of physical science and compare them with the best of theory-guided social science research, whether or not it uses regression analysis.


Social Science Natural Science Circular Orbit Social Science Research Elliptical Orbit 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephen E. Fienberg
    • 1
  1. 1.Departments of Statistics and Social SciencesCarnegie-Mellon UniversityUSA

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