Monday, March 12, 2012

Burden of Goddamn Proof, Lady!

Calvin Trillin wrote a story about jury duty. There was one hold out juror, who insisted that while the plaintiff might have been damaged by the railroad, it was possible that he might not have. She just couldn't tell. After lengthy attempts to explain to the woman that according the the judge's instructions, this meant a finding for the defendant, had bounced off her head, Trillin was reduced to screaming "Burden of Proof lady! Burden of Goddamn Proof!".

While on a jury you can generally rely on a judge's instructions as to where the goal lines are. In other cases, the standards can be less explicit, but just as certain. Often it's Experts vs. Liars. I mentioned Megan McArdle's dithering a couple weeks back. Her Tallness was a bit uncertain whether she should go with All the Climate Scientists in the World, or the Wingnuts. Now, seeing as the scientists have done all the work, checked their numbers millions of times, understood the physics, doublechecked the history, and come to an agreement, some of them are getting a wee bit impatient that every knucklehead in the world has appointed themself a juror. When Robert Wilson scoffed at McArdle, her Twitter meltdown hit the Richter Scale. The epicenter was Wilson patiently uncovering Megan's method, which centers around never reading that which she talks about:

Megan McArdle ‏ @asymmetricinfo
@wilsonrobertj I've stated an opinion, defended it with examples, and indicated I'm open to correction. You've . . . demanded I name a paper

4h Megan McArdle ‏ @asymmetricinfo
@wilsonrobertj I find *your* refusal to name a model particularly strange. As if you don't know which ones are reliable, almost.

4h Megan McArdle ‏ @asymmetricinfo
@wilsonrobertj Given that when asked to do so, you fall back on "You can't name a model!", I tend to suspect it's because you can't.

4h Robert Wilson ‏ @wilsonrobertj
@asymmetricinfo I am simply asking that you provide some evidence of having read a scientific model before saying it is useless.

In equally glorious Fail news, Megan's sub Avik Roy demonstrated the futility of Medicaid:

Chapin White of the Center for Studying Health System Change has published an important new paper in Health Services Research, a journal of health economics, which suggests that a critical part of the Affordable Care Act--its expansion of Medicaid coverage to 16 million more Americans--may actually reduce those individuals' access to health care.

but forgot Rule #2 : Don't misappropriate the work of somebody who is watching you:

I asked Chapin White to comment on Avik Roy’s post about his work. In reply, Chapin sent me the following by email and authorized me to post it.

The author of the recent Atlantic blog post did not contact me while writing the piece, and I found that it missed several key points.

& details follow.

A big problem is the inability to distinguish between Data & Lore.

It's not that tough. Usually, when somebody tells you "Scientists don't know everything. 100 years ago everybody thought X" a little history checking will reveal that no, in fact the people who actually studied the issue in an orderly manner had concluded that X was a load of bunk long before.

Scientists are losing patience. Pretty soon, if we don't shape up, they'll unleash the killer robots.

And we know we don't want that.

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