Thursday, November 15, 2012

Six of the Best 295

"We need to broaden our idea of what constitutes proper evidence, and develop an understanding of where good old-fashioned human judgement and instinct is more appropriate, given its speed, responsiveness and ability to handle both complexity and individual variations." Thinking Liberal gets it exactly right in questioning the enthusiasm for 'evidence-based policy'.

Benedict Carey in the New York Times discusses the role that psychologists played in the campaign for the re-election of President Obama.

Sociological Images has a gallery of vintage postcards opposing women's suffrage.

Caroline Shenton tracks down some souvenirs made from the ruins of the old Palace of Westminster, which burnt down in 1834.

"Austin was a spiritualist, and a member of a Cardiff church, and ran séances (for which he charged). It was to one of these séances that Emily Libby headed in September 1942, and which led to a criminal case against Austin for 'unlawfully using subtle means by pretending to hold communication with deceased spirits to deceive and impose upon certain of his majesty’s subjects'." Dr Alun Withey writes about his wicked Uncle Austin.

This Was Leicestershire looks at Leicester Castle.

1 comment:

Squirrel Nutkin said...

There are some worthwhile sentences in the Thinking Liberal post and you have quoted one. The problem is that far too much of what he has written is a demonstration of the fallibility of human "thinking".

There are undoubtedly vast numbers of instances in everyday life where judgement and/or instinct (the embodied know-how gifted to us by inheritance and experience) are appropriate, but the more important the decision, the greater the scope of the policy question, the longer the timescale for making a judgement, then the more important it is to seek out evidence that excludes bad decisions and underpins good judgement.

He decides to take homoeopathy as his key example, then chooses to characterise it by ignoring its defining characteristic (that "like cures like" and so - in some uttely mysterious way - a pill that cannot be distinguished from a sugar tablet or a bottle of water that cannot be distinguished from pure water will somehow restore a person's health) and flagging up aspects of how homeopaths (can) behave that are not unique to homeopathy. He has the fuzziest concept of what the placebo effect is, has decided to ignore the vast weight of rigorous evidence that homeopathy does not outperform placebo effects ...

But then there's the point: this was more an exercise in rhetoric, in the internal party debate, an attempt to bat away the inky-fingered, geeky, prosaic types who persist in bringing forward inconvenient facts and restore primacy to people who rely on elegantly expressed preconceptions and traditional armchair theorising.