Deconstructing Larry Wasserman–it starts like this…

In my July 8, 2012 post “Metablog: Up and Coming,” I wrote: “I will attempt a (daring) deconstruction of Professor Wasserman’s paper[i] and at that time will invite your “U-Phils” for posting around a week after (<1000 words).” These could reflect on Wasserman’s paper and/or my deconstruction of it. See an earlier post for the way we are using “deconstructing” here. For some guides, see “so you want to do a philosophical analysis“.

So my Wasserman deconstruction notes have been sitting in the “draft” version of this blog for several days as we focused on other things.  Here’s how it starts…

             Deconstructing Larry Wasserman–it starts like this…

1.Al Franken’s Joke

The temptation is strong, but I shall refrain from using the whole post to deconstruct Al Franken’s 2003 quip about media bias (from Lies and Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right), with which Larry Wasserman begins his paper “Low Assumptions, High Dimensions” (2011):

To make the argument that the media has a left- or right-wing, or a liberal or a conservative bias, is like asking if the problem with Al-Qaeda is: do they use too much oil in their hummus?

According to Wasserman, “a similar comment could be applied to the usual debates in the foundations of statistical inference.”

Although it’s not altogether clear what Wasserman means by his analogy with comedian (now senator) Franken, it’s clear enough what Franken means if we follow up the quip with the next sentence in his text (which Wasserman omits): “The problem with al Qaeda is that they’re trying to kill us!” (p. 1) The rest of Franken’s opening chapter is not about al Qaeda but about bias in media.

But what does this have to do with the usual debates in the foundations of statistical inference? What is Wasserman, deep down, perhaps unconsciously, really, really, possibly implicitly, trying to tell us by way of this analogy? Such are the ponderings in my deconstruction of him…

Yet the footnote to my July 8 blog also said that my post assumed ” I don’t chicken out”.  So I will put it aside until I get a chorus of encouragement to post it…

Categories: Philosophy of Statistics, Statistics, U-Phil | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

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5 thoughts on “Deconstructing Larry Wasserman–it starts like this…

  1. Jean

    Sounds intriguing, please post!

  2. Please post the entire deconstruction!


  3. Mark

    I’m eager to read it. I love reading your work, but it seems awfully hard for me to apply some of the error statistical ideas to my work with high dimensional data. I understand this is part of Larry’s claim and I’m curious what you think.

    • Mark: Thanks for adding to the (mini) chorus, but I think you’ll be disappointed if you’re expecting technical statistical advancements from my philosophical deconstruction.

  4. Eileen

    I vote yes. I have really enjoyed reading the deconstructions on this blog so far.

I welcome constructive comments that are of relevance to the post and the discussion, and discourage detours into irrelevant topics, however interesting, or unconstructive declarations that "you (or they) are just all wrong". If you want to correct or remove a comment, send me an e-mail. If readers have already replied to the comment, you may be asked to replace it to retain comprehension.

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