On analytical statistics and critical realism22 December, 2016 at 12:17 | Posted in Theory of Science & Methodology | 1 Comment
In this paper we began by describing the position of those critical realists who are sceptical about multi-variate statistics … Some underlying assumptions of this sceptical argument were shown to be false. Then a positive case in favour of using analytical statistics as part of a mixed-methods methodology was developed. An example of the interpretation of logistic regression was used to show that the interpretation need not be atomistic or reductionist. However, we also argued that the data underlying such interpretations are ‘ficts’, i.e. are not true in themselves, and cannot be considered to be accurate or true descriptions of reality. Instead, the validity of the interpretations of such data are what social scientists should argue about. Therefore what matters is how warranted arguments are built by the researcher who uses statistics. Our argument supports seeking surprising findings; being aware of the caveat that demi-regularities do not necessarily reveal laws; and otherwise following advice given from the ‘sceptical’ school. However the capacity of multi-variate statistics to provide a grounding for warranted arguments implies that their use cannot be rejected out of hand by serious social researchers.