Data geeks rule OK

Buzzards mew (see last post) and data geeks buzzz….

The Economist’s Lexington column talks about the surfeit of data and data geeks buzzing around Washington DC. Data it seems is the truth, or truths, because data can be made to say a lot of things, depending on which way you twist it. Unless you’re Nate Silver, who wishes to be judged on his outcomes. That would and should be the real test for data geeks.

CP Scott: ‘facts are sacred, opinion is free.’ But if facts are merely data then – is nothing sacred?

‘Washington’s passion…for data does not signal the start of a new Socratic age, in which political classes jointly search for truth.’ (Lexington) Each of us brings his or her own ‘tribal instinct’ to weighing the facts. So maybe that’s another rider to CP Scott’s dictum. Keep your tribal instincts in check, and when judging facts put your mind in neutral…

Over here we’ve had the Civitas report, arguing there has been no insider advantage from joining the Common Market all those years ago. Our trade with the EU represents no greater percentage than it did in 1973. The government’s response: ‘the EU’s share of UK trade has remained consistent because of the huge growth in other markets in the same period.’ Now I’d need to re-read Richard Lambert’s article in Prospect a few months back, check out the recent CBI report arguing a different case from Civitas, and the Civitas report itself. Then form my own view. My tribal instinct backs the CBI. Civitas are a right-of-centre think tank, so we’d expect their instinct to be more critical of the EU. Surprise surprise, that’s just what they are.

Damned hard being neutral, and a whole lot less fun.

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