Good thinking — the thing statistics cannot​ replace

10 November, 2018 at 16:06 | Posted in Statistics & Econometrics | 4 Comments


As social researchers, we should never equate science with mathematics and statistical calculation. All science entail human judgement, and using mathematical and statistical models don’t relieve us of that necessity. They are no substitutes for thinking and doing real science.

Statistical — and econometric — patterns should never be seen as anything else than possible clues to follow. Behind observable data, there are real structures and mechanisms operating, things that are  — if we really want to understand, explain and (possibly) predict things in the real world — more important to get hold of than to simply correlate and regress observable variables.

Statistics cannot establish the truth value of a fact. Never has. Never will.

Lars P. Syll



  1. Mathematics is about mathematical structures. Statistics is about describing patterns in data. Science is about ‘the real world’. Being about different things, something is needed to link one to the other. Whatever this link is, it is neither mathematics nor statistics. It is something that we need to understand better, and not just economists.

  2. “Science” nowadays, if high-energy physics, astrophysics, and the associalted cosmological (“big bang”) notions are representative, involves purely mathematical computer manipulations of scraps of computer-generated data according to taken-for-granted theoretical ideas. In comparison, econometrics is almost realistic.

  3. No! It´s a tool!

  4. “Mathematics is about mathematical structures.”
    What do you mean by mathematical structure?

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