Tuesday, June 16, 2009
The Problem with Anecdotal Evidence and Labels
There is a problem with anecdotal evidence and labels. It seems that people who love labels seem to love anecdotal evidence. Using anecdotal evidence is like this. One makes a statement and gives examples of how that statement is played out. An example, "There is a war on Christmas in America!," and you give three examples of events that are, or appear to be anti-Christmas. What did this prove? It proved that there were three events that were, or at least appeared to be anti-Christmas, no more and no less.
Often people make judgments based on these statements and the anecdotal evidence that goes with them. What people often fail to grasp, however, is that most of these statements are hypotheses and a hypothesis, no matter how well argued, is not a fact until it has been proven. Anecdotal evidence, no matter how compelling, is not really proof.
Of late the usage of the label 'socialist' is on the rise. There are lots of anecdotal statements to this effect. Interesting thing, however, Atlantic did some research and discovered that this might be overstated. As the chart indicates, .21% of business assets have been nationalized leaving 99.79% of business assets in the hands of the free market.
I do not know if we are moving in the right direction or not. I do know this, however. Having one group of people yelling "Socialist!!!" all the time and offering no viable alternative plan is not going to help the discussion. For one, it's a use of a cheap label (sigh!) and, additionally, it is untrue.
My great rant on all of this does not come down to debating direction; I think that debating direction is important. What my rant really is comes down to the incessant need for people to place labels on ideas and thoughts with little thought as to what is actually being discussed.
I am linking the article from Atlantic.