22 September 2006

Which is what he wanted

The Times hasn’t come yet this morning, so I read the Crimson (which I’ve done more this week than in the previous four years). For once the ed page had something insightful and intelligent.

I think the Baptized Pagan was right. Benedict was up to something here, and although he may have not considered the implications of his words, he’s highlighted a problem at the heart of another religion.

As a letter to the Times put it earlier this week,

“Media coverage of Pope Benedict XVI’s speech has underreported two facts: The Roman Catholic Church openly opposed the American-led war in Iraq, and the church has generally opposed the Israeli presence in the occupied territories.
Muslim leaders, take note: On the two most inflammatory issues in the world today, the Catholic Church is on your side. “

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Posted in Politicks on 22 September 2006 at 9:54 am by Nate
20 September 2006

Negative results

I’ve often complained to my colleagues that we pay far too little attention to negative results. Negative results from our data don’t tell us as much as positive results, but that hardly means that we learn nothing from them. At the very least, we can learn what directions have not worked out in a research program and what efforts not to repeat.

Thus, the following from over at Crooked Timber caught my eye this morning:

Now, if you write a paper describing negative results—a model where nothing is significant—then you may have a hard time getting it published. In the absence of some specific controversy, negative results are boring. For the same reason, though, if your results just barely cross the threshold of conventional significance, they may stand a disproportionately better chance of getting published than an otherwise quite similar paper where the results just failed to make the threshold. And this is what the graph above shows, for papers published in the American Political Science Review. It’s a histogram of p-values for coefficients in regressions reported in the journal. The dashed line is the conventional threshold for significance. The tall red bar to the right of the dashed line is the number of coefficients that just made it over the threshold, while the short red bar is the number of coefficients that just failed to do so. If there were no bias in the publication process, the shape of the histogram would approximate the right-hand side of a bell curve. The gap between the big and the small red bars is a consequence of two things: the unwillingness of journals to report negative results, and the efforts of authors to search for (and write up) results that cross the conventional threshold.

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Posted in IvoryTower on 20 September 2006 at 9:07 am by Nate
11 September 2006

Holocausts of various sorts

The word “holocaust” denotatively means a destruction or consumption by fire. It came to stand in specifically for the Nazi’s machinery of the infatuation of the death of Jews, gays, gypsies, Slavs, and so forth because of the fire they used to destroy the remnants of their victims. Disease are often described as burning through a population, as being a sort of natural holocaust.

In the commemoration of the terror attacks of 11 September 2001 today, I’ve read or heard many of the victims’ survivors talking about the incomprehension of how so many people they knew could so immediately and simultaneously cease. How it shook their faith in some sort of Ultimateness. How it shook their understanding of themselves.

But this feeling has been nothing new to those gay men I know who saw everyone around them cease within a tiny bit of time. And it’s nothing new to those Jewish people who lived through the camps. Or to the Hutus in Rwanda. Or to countless others.

I’m not trying to downplay the very real wounds of that day five years ago. I, like everyone, can never forget that day: the images, the looks on faces, the phone calls from all over the world, the weeping student of mine whose father died.

I cannot make sense of this, and I don’t expect to be able to understand it rationally. But even so, we have to understand it in some fashion, so as to know when the evil of holocausts rises within each of us, overtaking us, and living on its own.

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Posted in RmAuNsDiOnMg on 11 September 2006 at 11:50 pm by Nate